Russell Island bridge collapses

The Russell Island bridge connecting mainland Spanish Wells to Russell Island collapsed yesterday afternoon, preventing vehicular traffic between the islands and also bursting a water pipe which provides potable water to Russell Island residents.

The bridge was a temporary one installed pending a complete replacement, which the Ministry of Public Works signed a more than $2 million contract for last year.

Director of Public Works Melanie Roach told The Nassau Guardian that “an overloaded or an extra heavy truck went over the bridge, and it collapsed under the weight of the truck”.

In a public statement highlighting the longstanding issue of the bridge’s condition, Russell Island resident PLP Senator Clay Sweeting called on the government to quickly take action.

“The bridge has been a matter of concern for some time and I must note that the contract to upgrade and replace the bridge was signed in July 2019,” Sweeting said.

“As far as I am aware, the new bridge is still sitting in containers on Russell Island waiting to be installed.

“One must also note that the water main that was attached to the bridge that serviced the community on Russell Island has also been destroyed. The residents are now without potable water.

“It would also be remiss of me if I didn’t note the red water that is quite evident in the photo, which poses another issue for the residents in North Eleuthera. There is no way now for vehicular traffic to traverse from Spanish Wells, the commercial and business center, and Russell Island, which is largely residential.”

North Eleuthera MP Rickey Mackey later released a statement indicating that several of those concerns are being addressed.

“A barge is en route to the area, which will facilitate vehicular traffic between Spanish Wells and Russell Island,” he said.

“We anticipate that all temporary measures should be in place to facilitate the daily routine between Spanish Wells and Russell Island by Friday. We also anticipate the commencement of work to correct the water main as early as tomorrow.”

Roach and Mackey both confirmed that the new bridge is on Spanish Wells, with Mackey noting “the government and Waugh Construction (Bahamas) Ltd. will work feverishly to commence the reconstruction on this new bridge, so as to keep the inconveniences at a minimum and totally facilitate the island as soon as possible”.

When asked about the delay in the new bridge being built since the contract was signed last July, Roach and Ministry of Public Works Deputy Director Robert Mouzas said it was first impacted by Hurricane Dorian in September and now further impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which shut the country down in March.

“The new bridge is on the island, but the contractor was in the process of obtaining a barge, which would have been used to provide temporary access while they took down the old bridge and constructed the new bridge,” Roach said.

“That barge is currently in Florida and it’s going to go to Grand Bahama and pick up the contractors, additional materials and equipment, and then it would go to Spanish Wells.”

Further addressing the delay, Roach and Mouzas said the bridge took two months to be manufactured, and then the Grand Bahama-based contractor “lost just about everything”, including his equipment, during Dorian.

They said the contractor then had to wait months to get insurance to replace equipment, and noted that the COVID-19 pandemic struck as the country was still attempting to recover from Dorian.

“It’s an unfortunate series of events that you couldn’t make up,” Mouzas said.

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