A bridge too far? (nearly there)
The Sand River Bridge has become rather an emotional subject to many a local St Franciscan and so it is a challenge to write an article that will not offend someone. The ‘Have your Say’ article by Garth Perry certainly sparked a lot of support for his views and one could say the local population at large are somewhat ‘peed off’ at the progress.
Following Garth’s ‘Have your Say’ St Francis Today, along with a representative of St Francis Property Owners were invited to a site inspection and insight to the progress and where it was going. SFT has no knowledge of how SFPO will interpret the fact-finding visit and no doubt their interpretation will be covered in their monthly newsletter but here are the ’facts’ as interpreted by SFT.
- Completion is due by July 2018.
- The contract will end way under budget. The contractor’s words were “significantly”.
- There is going to be one heck of a lot more inconvenience to drivers in the coming weeks.
If we look back at the contract to build the bridge, SFT traces our initial meeting with EMPA to February 2016 after the contract had been awarded to them in very late 2015. Forward planning of the site office and a start to re-routing of the river followed in March. Then came the first delay when the contract was challenged by those who felt more entitled to being awarded the work. Either simultaneously or shortly after this challenge, DEDEAT became involved and of course we all know that with best intentions DEDEAT will delay the best intentions.
Finally, in September 2016 EMPA were able to return to site to continue what they had started six months earlier. The estimated construction time was 18–months so if we calculate from October to today it is 19 months since the actual work commenced full time. Take off two months for the two Christmas shutdowns and we end up with 17 months. So EMPA’s claim that they are ahead of schedule is true albeit if they finish in July they will have exceeded the contract period by roughly a month. Finish by the end of June and they are right on time.
Just recently there has been a delay caused not by the contractor but by Provincial roads. It is a small modification but a modification nonetheless. This mod is necessary for as we well know many if not most locals do not believe that traffic laws apply to them and generally treat the laws with disdain until a minibus taxi happens on them when they cry foul and demand Kouga Traffic, Provincial Traffic and indeed even the Minister of Police take action against the lawlessness. But we digress.
Travelling from Humansdorp to St Francis the road takes a gentle curve to the right about 100 metres after the bridge which at the speed limit in place of 80 KPH presents no problem. Unfortunately few will abide the 80KPH and most will enter this curve at well over 100 KPH and herein lies the Province’s concern and the need for the modification. The contractor gave it another name but for sake of better understanding, we shall call it a camber. The bridge is being modified to accommodate a camber that will set up speeding cars for the curve reducing the chances of an accident. NOTE “reducing”! Be sure some will approach the curve at well over 100 and so there will still be accidents which we certainly hope won’t be blamed on the contractor in future letters to the press.
So now the bad news!
For a period of around six weeks, motorists are going to be inconvenienced with a stop/go when crossing the bridge, 24/7. In other words, the stop/go will be in place day and night.
The road has to be rebuilt some 100 metres either side of the bridge and the inconvenience is simply unavoidable. So “Dear Fellow St Franciscans”, let us all show a little patience and refrain from cursing the workers alongside the work area or showing them your Archers Finger for there is little they can do other than get on with the job at hand. The contractor has said they will be doing all in their power to finish this section well ahead of the predicted six weeks so we don’t need to antagonise them.
It is nearly over so let’s not throw ’water over the troubled bridge’.
There have been comments that this was no ordinary bridge for Eskom had involvement to ensure the bridge would have both width and strength to carry the weight f the nuclear turbines. EMPA is neither admitting nor denying but one gets the feeling that this certainly was the case.