Sand River Bridge closed three times in just over a year

By Bev Mortimer:

For the third time in just over a year the bridge across the Sand River on the R330 to Humansdorp – St Francis’ only exit route – was closed to traffic last night.

Many music lovers who went  through to Jeffreys Bay for the music concert were unable to return home to St Francis during the night. The bridge was officially announced as closed for the third time in a communiqué sent by Kouga Municipality at 11 pm. “The bridge hasn’t washed away but the water level has risen to such an extent that it is now flowing over the bridge,” a statement said.

Traffic police who had been monitoring the road all day yesterday were sending motorists back on either side. Officials say that only when 100% safe to cross will the bridge be reopened.

Earlier in the evening the traffic police and Kouga Municipality had warned the bridge could be closed if water levels and volumes from the river threatened the stability of the bridge. “Traffic police are staying at the bridge throughout the night,” the municipality said.

The Sand River Bridge was broken and washed away mid afternoon on 7 July 2011 by the sheer force of flood waters that came initially from the Oyster Bay wetlands following heavy rains. The old bridge could not stand the pressure and gave way, leaving St Francis Bay and Cape St Francis marooned for 24 hours.
A footpath was built by the following morning and a new temporary bridge was built across the sand river by later the next afternoon.

The Sand River bridge on 14 August last year. . This was the second temporary bridge built in July last year. The road was tarred in November 2011.

This first temporary bridge lasted only two weeks and was broken up after further Sand River floods on 25 July 2011  leaving St Francis residents partially marooned and without vehicular access to or from the area for four days.  The bridge was only tarred in November last year – in time for season.

An estimated R10-million was allocated for the repair of the Sand River Bridge in a meeting of the Cape Roads Department in early March. According to the senior roads engineer, Marius Keyser, funding for this bridge was provided for in the new budget that started in April this year.  After the tender process, Keyser said the EIA process would start.

Environmental consultants told St Francis Chronicle in April this year that the EIA for a bridge over the Sand River is expected to be a lengthy one as there are many experts and consultants who will have major input and things to recommend or caution about.  Keyser concurred, saying that the Sand River has a history of problems and the many experts will need to investigate the site, plus the whole river catchment area. They will need to consider the effect the construction of the bridge would have on the environment. So this EIA, he said,will be more comprehensive than others, taking at least a year.

In September last year Keyser also told St Francis Chronicle that the EIA will be a time consuming effort. “There are too many factors involved and owing to the sensitivity of these there is no easy remedy or solution of a permanent bridge being built soon.”

“So we are currently stuck with this bridge,” Keyser commented.

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Updates to follow on 16 July 2012