With sugarcane season starting, the Fiji Roads Authority has been hard at work to get key transportation routes in good shape.
Dust was causing problems for homes and the sugar mill at the RakiRaki bridge bypass. The bridge is closed for major repairs that are expected to take at least 18 months, and an 11km bypass has been set up.
A 500m portion of the road running from the Penang mill has now been sealed, markedly reducing dust caused by light vehicles and trucks travelling the route.
“In a case like this, where something is a potential health issue, we move as fast as we can. We’re very pleased to have been able to resolve this for the people of RakiRaki,” said Ian Hunter the Capital Works Manager with the Fiji Roads Authority
The Raki Raki bypass case was extreme, but some dust is inevitable while Fiji’s roading system evolves into one that can really support the country well.
In May, flooding damaged the Koronubu Bridge in Ba, home to one of four Fiji Sugar Corporation mills. The bridge serves seven villages.
Large amounts of debris came down river at a fast pace and hit the supports for the bridge, causing serious damage that made it unsafe for trucks and buses.
The Fiji Roads Authority moved quickly, sending teams from Engineering Consultants MWH Global to assess the bridge. Erasito Consultants have designed the repair solution and contractor Higgins have started the urgent repairs.
A number of buses were stuck on the valley side of the bridge after it closed to heavy traffic, so people were still able to catch the buses once they walked across to them.
Dale Nicholls the Maintenance Works Manager with the Fiji Roads Authority said “Getting the Koronubu bridge up and running again as fast as possible at this important time of year, has been a big priority for us, we expect work to be finished this month, which is very fast, considering the extent of the damage and the complexity of repairs.”
While it is important to the Fiji Sugar Corporation, it is also vital to the livelihoods of growers all around that region to be able to get access to the mills, and to get other goods and produce to market.”
Like most of the hundreds of bridges, roads and jetties that the FRA is working to upgrade, the Koronubu bridge provides important links for children getting to school, people getting to work and being able to get health care.
“The work going on all over Fiji does mean some short-term inconvenience and more hold ups for traffic for now, but in the long-term, the pay offs will be immense,” said Mr Nicholls.
Fiji will have world-class roads, built to perform well in extreme weather. Many remote villages will have easier, more reliable access-ways to markets, work, schools and healthcare. These are not just changes to roading: they’re changes to peoples’ way of life and potentially, how they make a living.
The FRA programme will go for many years yet, as every road, bridge, jetty and river crossing in Fiji is assessed, individual repair or rebuild plans are made, the work is completed, and all-important maintenance programmes are put in place.