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Death traps

Timoci Vula
Saturday, October 13, 2012

THE Fiji Roads Authority has indefinitely closed off two bridges in the Capital City after inspections deemed it death traps for the travelling public.

Citing what could either be poor use of materials or construction techniques, FRA manager change Mike Rudge told a press briefing in Suva yesterday that it was a catastrophe waiting to happen.

In the past 24 hours, the FRA and the Suva City Council decided to close both bridges and reroute traffic from the Stinson Parade bridge in downtown Suva and the Fletcher Rd bridge at Vatuwaqa.

"Last week, inspections were made on bridges around Suva and the inspectors were so concerned with two of the bridges and they wrote an interim report," Mr Rudge said.

"And we then arranged for more detailed inspections and as a result of those detailed inspections, yesterday we decided to close those bridges," he said.

While the FRA works round the clock to improve the flow of traffic in and out of Suva's central business district as work progresses, it has urged the public to be patient because their safety was paramount.

As of midday yesterday, the Stinson Parade bridge was closed off to vehicles and pedestrians with traffic detoured to Usher St towards the Metropole Building and access the old access road leading to Fiji Ports Authority from Rodwell Rd.

For the bridge at Fletcher Rd, vehicles have been detoured to Grantham Road.

The bridge at Stinson Parade, he said had concrete falling off and cables had rusted and disappeared.

"As the beam start to fail, it may start to create problems at the embankment and the piers," he said, adding there could be consequential damages as load on the bridge shifted.

At Vatuwaqa, he said it was a steel bridge with concrete decking but the bottom fleche had begun to "separate and eliminate" with no structural support.

"When it (bridge) goes, it'll just go bham!," he said.

Mr Rudge revealed it would cost $6 million to $10 million to replace the bridge at Fletcher Rd, and between $10 million to $15 million for the bridge at Stinson Parade.

"Our first action right now is to protect the safety of the travelling public," he said.

He added they were looking to implement temporary solutions, one of which was to see the option of installing bailey bridges on top of existing structure.

This, he added was likely to occur in the next three months at least.

SCC special administrator Chandhu Umaria said the bridge at Stinson Parade would have been more than 25 years old while the Fletcher Road bridge was slightly more than 20 years old.

He said given the number of vehicles on Suva roads today, some if not more than 10,000 vehicles entered the city each day, half of which exited Suva using the Stinson Parade bridge.

"This the outlet bridge from Suva and more than half of the vehicles that leaves the city headed towards Lami use this bridge, including the container trucks that go to the port," Mr Umaria said.

"And the same with vehicles coming into Suva, including majority of the buses, use the bridge at Fletcher Rd because they either go along Edinburgh Drive, Grantham Rd or Fletcher Rd," he said.

Mr Rudge said looking at the two bridges, it could have been around 30 years old.

Meanwhile, he acknowledged the assistance of police who have worked with them for a solid 24 hours, and will be in the coming weeks, in assisting in traffic flow in and out of the city.

Permanent secretary for Information Sharon Smith-Johns said there was bound to be traffic issues during this period and that people needed to understand the decision was made for their safety.

"Their safety is paramount so please we are asking everyone to be patient with the work as it progress. All must understand that we can't have people on those bridges because it is unsafe," Ms Smith-Johns said.

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