• Monday, July 22, 2024
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BusinessDay

Third Mainland Bridge: Not yet celebration time despite full reopening

Last Thursday, respite came the way of motorists who use the Third Mainland Bridge, Lagos for their daily commute to either work or business.

That was the day the Federal Government reopened the bridge which had been in partial closure for three months. But concerns remain.

David Umahi, minister of Works, declared the bridge open in a brief, brisk but momentous occasion that saw elated motorists speed through the bridge as a demonstration of freedom from months of glitch and gridlock on the bridge and all the adjoining routes in or out of Lagos Island.

The minister, who was represented by the Federal Controller of Works in Lagos, Olukorede Kesha, expressed gratitude to Lagosians for their patience during the period of the extensive repairs of the bridge.

While the minister revealed that other ancillary works like the installation of speed limits, guard rails, and CCTV, among others will end by May 24, Kesha advised road users to take ownership of the infrastructure and protect every installation on it.

Motorists, who had been having harrowing driving experience on the bridge, described its reopening as a significant milestone that benefits everybody in terms of man-hour lost on the bridge and the socio-economic impact.

One of the motorists who spoke to our reporter a few minutes before the bridge was reopened said, “I live in Ketu and work on the Island. This bridge is my route any day. But it was not easy these past three months plus. I spent upwards of four hours to commute to work for a journey that ordinarily should not take one two hours.”

The motorist, who identified himself simply as Kelvin, noted that apart from the man-hour lost every day on the bridge, there was also the aspect of stress on both the human body and the vehicle plus the extra money spent on fuel and, in some cases, business appointments missed.

Another motorist, a commercial bus driver who identified himself as Wasiu Akintoye, said he goes to CMS and Obalende from Oshodi on daily basis.

“It was really a difficult time but I pitied my passengers more because they paid for the time lost on the bridge. I charged them more,” he said.

According to him, “Before the closure of the bridge, we were charging like N700-N800 to Obalende, but we have to increase it to N1,200 and N1,500 depending on the period of the day. Some of my colleagues changed route but I continued but, ‘I no lie you,’ it was tough.”

The Lagos State Commissioner for Transportation, Oluwaseun Osiyemi, who represented the state Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, at the reopening event, cautioned motorists against over-speeding as there are speed cameras that would capture them with appropriate fines.

Osiyemi commended the Federal Government for the project which, according to him, is a total renewal of one of the most important bridges in Nigeria.

The Third Mainland Bridge is the longest of three bridges connecting Lagos Island to the mainland. The others are the Eko and Carter bridges. It was the longest bridge in Africa until 1996 when the 6th October Bridge in Cairo was completed.

It is reported that the Federal Government has spent about N15.6billion carrying out repair works on the bridge in the last six years and yet they are not done which is why it is not yet time to clap with two hands over the Thursday, April 4 reopening of the bridge.

The bridge has undergone several repairs and rehabilitation which experts have blamed on the failure of the Federal Government and its relevant agencies to keep to rehabilitation and maintenance schedule on the bridge which is about 34 years old now.

The latest rehabilitation efforts on the bridge for which the Federal Government is said to have spent about N6.28 billion involved the resurfacing of the entire 11.8-kilometre length of bridge, the interchanges, the ramps, critical links, among others.

With all these, the Federal Government says it is not yet done with the bridge as it announced recently that a N46 billion contract has been awarded to Julius Berger for the rehabilitation of the bridge alongside Cater Bridge—the First Mainland Bridge in Lagos.

The minister of works who disclosed this during a tour of Federal Government’s projects in Lagos recently, said the contract was for repairing the underwater damage of the bridge which, he said, would cost about N21 billion, while that of Carter Bridge is to gulp N25 billion.

“Already, Julius Berger is working on it, and has been mobilised with the sum of N6 billion and N7 billion respectively,” he said.

The minister added that there were three critical underwater challenges affecting the structures one of which is the depletion of the slabs which, he said, there was nothing to worry about because the ministry is going to repair it as it did with Eko Bridge.

The other challenges are the deterioration of the pipe caps and their cover, among others. The cause of these challenges, he said, are illegal sand mining, underwater currents and rusting of the steel casings.

Because of these challenges and more, Umahi, asked the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on these critical infrastructure, pointing out that it will cost over N6 trillion to construct another Third Mainland Bridge if, in the event of delay, the present bridge collapses.

“It is very likely in the face of these pending repairs that a day will come when motorists will be advised to plan their movement because the bridge will be closed to enable contractors carry out the repair work,” Johnson Chukwuma, a structural engineer, reasoned.

Reminded that the minister has assured that the repair works would not disrupt traffic flow on the bridge, Chukwuma said it is possible to carry out such underway repairs while traffic is allowed on the bridge.

“But we are talking about technical engineering work like bridge repair. We may have a critical point where the bridge should not have any load on it, no matter how little, to enable the contractor do his work without any disturbance whatsoever,” he explained.

“So, the bridge has been fully opened, we welcome that; but it does not foreclose the need for closure in future since the rehabilitation of that critical infrastructure is work in progress until it is fully done,” Chukwuma said.