Anger over state of St George’s swing bridge
Serious corrosion to the swing bridge across Ferry Reach means that the East End’s crossing will be reduced to a single lane down the middle as of today.
Vehicles heavier than ten tonnes could cause the bridge to list, and will thus be off limits.
Buses will still be safe to cross, but certain types of fire trucks and construction vehicles will be unable to use the bridge for perhaps two months, until a prefabricated bridge can be laid across it.
Last night, angry residents of St George’s told Craig Cannonier, the Minister of Public Works, that the bridge had been allowed to deteriorate after languishing for years.
“The swing bridge has been a challenge for quite some time now,” Mr Cannonier told the town hall meeting at Penno’s Wharf.
“About two years ago, it was decided that we could no longer have the bridge swinging, getting open and then not being able to close.”
The bridge has remained static since, he said. However, engineers examining the bridge in recent weeks found that it had become “seriously structurally compromised”, leaving some of its supports so corroded that “if you just touch it, it’s crumbling away”.
While the steel running north to south on the bridge is intact, the supports going across it from east to west “are in really, really bad shape”, Mr Cannonier said. The minister told a crowd of about 30 that it was vitally important that the bridge be permanently restored, and said he held out hope for the swing mechanism to be restored.
Elizabeth Christopher, a councillor for St George’s, told him that a swing rather than a fixed bridge was imperative for the economic wellbeing of the Olde Town, but Mr Cannonier said it was impossible to guarantee.
Asked to take a guess on how much a new swinging bridge would cost, government engineer Richard Crossley took a guess of $10 to $15 million.
Miles Outerbridge, a retired structural engineer, said bridges needed an annual inspection — something that had not been carried out on the swing bridge in years.
“I have seen appalling conditions underneath the bridge for years,” Mr Outerbridge said, to applause. “That appalling situation didn’t happen in the last six months.
“It’s years and years of shameful neglect. I don’t know what the mindset of this Government is — we don’t seem to be able to fix anything. This is not good enough.”
Mr Cannonier said: “I live in St George’s myself. It’s a major concern for me to know that we have a bridge in this bad shape.”
The public would be kept informed with regular town hall meetings as the ministry worked with the Governor to get a replacement bridge put in place with the help of the Royal Engineers.
There is a limit of two months to have a Bailey bridge in place: a prefabricated truss bridge that would run over the existing structure, which would do away with the emergency weight restriction.
While that bridge was being laid down, St George’s will be completely cut off, but the closure could be as short as 12 hours, Mr Crossley said.
After six months at the most, a technical team would be procured to bring back an accurate assessment of the bridge, and a definitive plan for a long-term fix would be done within a year.
The news was scant consolation for Jerry Correia, the operator of a charter vessel that once made regular use of the swing bridge.
He said he felt “upset that everyone has dropped whatever they were doing to save the bridge”.
“Two years ago, in the first month it was closed, I lost $14,000,” Mr Correia told the gathering.
“Here I am, in debt up to my ears because of that flipping bridge.”
Mr Correia told The Royal Gazette that his business had just weathered “the worst season I’ve ever had”, with substantial costs piled on to his operations because of detours forced on him by the closure of the swing bridge. Mr Correia also blamed the closure of the swing for accelerating corrosion, because the bridge had formerly oiled its mechanisms by opening and closing.
“They closed it and left it to corrode, and we’ve watched it turn into a bucket of rust,” he said.