Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister said that while plans to replace the Russell Island bridge, which collapsed last week, were delayed due to Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19, the incident would not have happened had the load limit of the bridge been adhered to.
“We have bridges throughout this country that for decades have sat there that we need to ensure can be safe for people to cross,” he said.
“…These are ongoing works all of the time. And it’s very important for us to plead with Bahamians to not go over the limits that those bridges have.
“If you have a concrete truck that is filled with sand and a bridge that is compromised, you don’t take the truck across that bridge. And that’s what happened in Spanish Wells.”
The Russell Island bridge, connecting mainland Spanish Wells to Russell Island, collapsed last week Wednesday, preventing vehicular traffic between the islands and also bursting a water pipe that 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.
Bannister said the Russell Island bridge had been ignored for years before the Minnis administration.
“The Spanish Wells bridge was in bad condition for many years,” he said.
“It was ignored. I’m the first minister to go down and make plans for the elimination of that bridge. We knew that there were load limits and we asked everybody to abide by those load limits. In July of last year, the Cabinet approved a contractor for Spanish Wells. That contractor purchased what we call a custom-made kit bridge. The bridge was made just for Spanish Wells.
“That bridge is sitting in nine containers right there on Russell Island right now. And it’s been sitting there. The contractor had to bring a barge in from Louisiana and the purpose of that barge is once he put the barge in place, he would be able to move the old bridge, permit people to transport across to Russell Island on the barge, and then they’d be able to install the new bridge.
“With COVID-19, all the shutdowns and all the other challenges, and with Dorian, the contractor had much of his equipment destroyed. He is actively working now to be able to deconstruct that old bridge and to…erect the new bridge.”