Bridge lifting off into 'space age'
Published on: 3/2/06.


CONSTRUCTION BOSS Richard Edghill has built many bridges, but he has a special love for the one that will replace the historically important "Swing Bridge" in Bridgetown.

It doesn't mean there won't be a lump in his throat or a tear in his eye when the old Chamberlain Bridge "goes".

"I've built many bridges but this is the first lift bridge," Edghill, of Edghill Associates, told the DAILY NATION.

He made the comment yesterday after touring the $14 million Careenage Area Development Project, with City Member of Parliament Dame Billie Miller and officials of the Barbados Tourism Investment (BTI) Inc. and the Ministry of Tourism and International Transport.

The bridge is being built with fibre reinforced plastic (FRP), a so-called "space age material".

"It's probably one of the first in the world using that material, for a national lift bridge," Edghill said.

"There are a couple other bridges made that way, for fixed bridges, not for lift bridges. So it's very special in that. It's new technology, it's lighter and it's supposed to last indefinitely, with the right maintenance.

"It's non-corrosive. Steel in time will always corrode and if it's not maintained, in time it will eventually die, it will eventually perish."


FRP composites consist of an engineered polymer (plastic) and a reinforcement (i.e. glass) and can be additionally enhanced with other elements such as additives and core materials.

This combination can produce some of the strongest materials for their weight that technology has ever developed – and the most versatile.

The new bridge will replace what was originally a wooden bridge, named at the beginning of the 20th century in honour of Joseph Chamberlain, then British Colonial Secretary.

Chamberlain was said to have given the island a large chunk of money in grants and loans to keep the economy afloat.

Edghill said that not all of the old bridgework would vanish. "They're preserving the approach with the coral stone structure that it was built with, maybe 200 years ago," he said.

"All of the old stone work will be preserved. The actual arches on the bridge itself will be restored."

The old bridge had its share of problems. "You know, I feel sorry when anything old goes, including family," Edghill remarked.

"But it (the bridge) was not functional. It could not open. It was dangerous. It was structurally unsafe. They had to beef it up from time to time."

The new bridge is designed to take pedestrian traffic as well as heavy equipment.

It will be raised and lowered by an operator in a steel structure housing a hydraulic set of levers. The small building has been designed to withstand a hurricane.

Edghill said he was excited about the overall project. "I only take on exciting projects now," he conceded.

"This one will be a new focus on Bridgetown, especially when it's completed and it's being used. At night it will be lit up and it will be very attractive. It will bring life back to Bridgetown."