Juba Bridge renovation subjects pedestrians to dangers
When the news broke out about the renovation of the bridge in Sherikat, linking the two banks of River Nile, it was all about fanfare. No misery, doom, and gloom was anticipated.
The Juba residents living in Sherikat had expected a traffic snarl-up but not to the magnitude they are now experiencing.
The City Review conducted a spot check on Friday and ascertained that the 250-meter bridge is now subjecting residents of the eastern bank of the River Nile to torture and uncertainty.
On a normal occasion, residents cross the bridge in around 10 minutes but that timeframe has expanded to 25 minutes thanks to congestion and weaving through a crowd. Stepping on the metallic bar to embark on the journey to the other side encompasses at least 30 minutes of waiting time.
This has now implanted fears in commuters who use the bridge on regular basis.
‘‘We know this is the only bridge across the River Nile, but the government should contract a competent company to fix it for good. We cannot be subjected to this kind of suffering almost every year when the bridge undergoes renovation,” lamented Jacob Laku, a resident of Sherikat who further expressed fears that the bridge may provide a hotspot for the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 63-year-old man said, “because people who live across the river access every service from Juba Town, we are compelled to endure this kind of situation. You can see, you have to rub shoulders to cross. Especially in this time of COVID-19; it is more dangerous.”
Mr. Laku said elderly people like him were the most affected because they could easily fall off the narrow lane.
“It is better maybe for the young people,” Mr. Laku said, ‘‘but for people like me, it is very dangerous. Some vehicles are refusing to cross the bridge because it delays [them] to cross. So, we have to foot [and it is] dangerous,” said Mr. Laku.
According to a commuter who prefers anonymity, the bridge which used to take less than 10 minutes to cross on foot could now take 15-20 minutes to reach one end across the river if one moves faster.
He said his movement schedule from home to work and back has been affected by the renovation adding that his life was at risk because he wakes up very early to ensure he reaches the office on time.
“Before I used to start my journey from home at 7:00 am and leave work at 5:00 am. But now I have decided to leave home at 5:00 am and after work, I have to stay up to 9:00 pm then I go home to avoid traffic jump at the bridge,” he said.
Yom Deng, 25, called on the government to ensure the work on the bridge was completed very soon to ease the movement of people and goods.
She called on the employers to sympathize with their staff living across the river.
“I heard that the repair will take more than one month and this will affect workers and students badly because for you to cross, it takes you about one hour especially if you are using the vehicle,” said Yom.
“I am appealing to employers to give special consideration for those living across the River Nile because there are people who [are] living very far in Gumbo Serikat and they cannot leave for work when it is still dark,” she added.
The rehabilitation of the country’s main outlet bridge on the River Nile was started Saturday last week by an English following several maintenance efforts by the national companies that could not last.
“Now we have agreed to bring the expert from England and the constructors are ready to take up the work of rehabilitating the outbound lane, the lane leading from Juba to Gumbo,” said Engineer Kenyatta Warille on Friday last week. He is the presiding engineer in the exercise.
The rehabilitation which is planned to take 45 days, began this week on Monday in which all the vehicles are using one lane for both the entry and exit.
“Some of the damaged panels will be changed and other light activities on the lane so some of them are going to get replaced as such that lane is going to be closed completely while the repairs are going on,’’ Eng. Warille.
Built in 1972, Juba Bridge witnessed its first rehabilitation in 2008, three before the country’s independence in 2011 with the last in series of maintenance in April 2020 by the Rhino Atar Construction Company.
It is the only landlocked, South Sudan’s lifeline gateway to neighbouring countries of Uganda, Kenya, and other parts of the region.