By Emmanuel wise Jipoh
Public Works officials say steel plates will be used as an alternative to support the damaged St. John River Bridge that risks isolating Buchanan, Grand Bassa County.
The Ministry of Public Works (MPW) says high restrictions will be observed on the usage of the bridge until it is fully rehabilitated.
Constructed in 1960, the St. John River Bridge has served as a major trade route among Bong, Grand Bassa, Grand Kru, Maryland, Margibi, Montserrado, and other counties in Liberia.
It was reported last Friday that the St. John River Bridge was on the verge of collapse after its bearing had burst, putting thousands of commuters at risk.
Pending its full rehabilitation, only 20-ton vehicles and loads will be allowed passage through the major route to Buchanan City as part of the restrictions being announced.
The Ministry of Public Works considers the damaged St. John River Bridge as an emergency need, announcing a quick-impact project that will involve the use of steel plates as an alternative pending its full rehabilitation.
In the wake of the bridge’s damage, prices of basic commodities including rice and gasoline, are skyrocketing in Buchanan and other southeastern counties.
Deputy Public Works Minister Works Amos Yarkpawolo Barclay addressed reporters Wednesday, 7 June 2023 following a full assessment of the St. John River Bridge.
Barclay said the bridge will be contained by steel plates as an alternative, with high restrictions put in place.
He said a full rehabilitation of the bridge will not be done in the nearest months until all the components and materials needed can arrive in the country.
Barclay told reporters that he couldn’t state when the materials will arrive for the full rehabilitation of the bridge.
The bridge is said to have served the Liberian public for more than fifty years.
For his part, the Project Engineer at the Ministry of Public Works, Moses T. Kpaan, said the passage of heavy loads over the years had caused damage to the bridge.
He said the bridge’s bearing broke due to heavy loads.
According to him, the Engineers from the Ministry of Public Works, MittalSteel, the Equatorial Oil Palm Company, and other engineers will assemble to jack the Bridge while using steel plates as alternative means for commuters’ passage.
He noted that only 20 tons, of individual goods will be allowed passage.
Explaining further, Mr. Kpaan said the bridge was damaged because its bearings had burst from one of its ends.
According to him, the damaged bearings had been there for more than fifty years.
Commuters have complained that the deplorable bridge has become a death trap, leaving citizens in a state of panic amid rising prices of basic commodities in the affected areas.
Grand Bassa County Superintendent Mr. Janjay Baikpeh has called for calm among citizens.
He said the bridge will be rehabilitated.
Following the shocking incident, gasoline is priced at LRD$1,000, instead of its previous cost of LRD$750.
The price of a 25kg bag of rice has jumped from USD 20 to 24 USD.
Commercial drivers, motorcyclists, and private vehicle operators have warned that the escalating price of gasoline in the affected areas is due to the deplorable state of the bridge.