It was only last week that many citizens in the Asuogyaman district of the Eastern Region, especially those living along the Tema-Akosombo highway had hints that the famous Adomi Bridge that straddles the River Volta and serves as an entrance into the central and northern Volta Region especially and some parts of the Eastern Region would be closed to both vehicular and human traffic.
The reason given for the closure was that the bridge at Atimpoku built by two firms: Sir William Halcrow and Partners and Freeman Fox and Partners across the Volta in 1956 to ease the burden of travellers has developed structural defects as traffic loads have continued to increase leading to the first fatigue failures in 2008, which affected the transverse beams. One of the beams failed, while two others developed serious cracks, resulting in deflection of part of the bridge deck.
The cracked girders were locally strengthened by the installation of additional steel plates at the affected locations. But the continued use of the bridge by overloaded trucks breaching the 30t limit had adversely compromised its safety and stability and in April 2009 more cracks mostly confined to the same area as the first cracks were discovered. Repairs to the bridge deck will not solve the problem as the fatigue behaviour of the bridge indicates that the existing steel structure has reached the end of its lifetime.
It therefore became necessary to close the bridge for at least two years for this major rehabilitation exercise. This good intention has unfortunately resulted into an uncomfortable situation for many travelers.
The announcement by the GHA of the bridge closure took many by surprise as it came late last week in the form of newspaper publications and by some radio stations who gave the imminent closure airtime.
Motorists, especially those who ply the road enroute to the Volta Region were given alternatives to ease their journey. They have the pleasure of either using the two ferries provided by GHA to cross the river with their vehicles or the longer Sogakope-Adidome-Ho road to access the central parts of the region which include the regional capital, Ho or the northern parts of Kpando-Dambai-Kete Krachi or the eastern parts of Hohoe-Kadjebi continuing to Nkwanta and Kpassa in the northern reaches of the region.
Then came the historic Monday and many travelers found themselves between a rock and a hard place; caught in a situation they never imagined most especially since the authority had given them every assurance that all will be well. Unfortunately, the reality was different from what the GHA’s planners thought.
An angry traveler who did not find the situation funny posted had this experience to share with us on his facebook timeline:
“I got home at 12 midnight. After waiting for five hours to use the ferry, I had to go through Ho-Akatsi to Accra. Apparently, the single ferry doesn’t work after 6pm.
“Someone didn’t do his homework well before closing down the Adomi Bridge. Does the Minister of Roads also get paid his salary? So, what does he give Ghana in return??
“Is this lack of foresight??
“How can you close down such a major road without a sensible alternate arrangement?”
The Minister of Roads and Highways, Alhaji Aminu Sulemani, who was at the site on that Monday admitted that certain things were not in place. For example the service lines of Ghana Water Company, GWC, were yet to be relocated and the residents fear water supply to their communities may be disrupted which the minister agreed with that GWC should have relocated their service lines before the bridge closure.
What is however making travelers more uncomfortable is the fact that the ferries provided do not work beyond 6pm which means anyone travelling to that part of the Volta Region in the evening will have no alternative but to use the Sogakope-Adidome-Ho road. Even though this road has not been completed, travelers will have to endure its bumpy nature with the ever present threat of damage to their vehicles.
For those going to Hohoe or Kpando, the road is not a straight forward one. They either have to go through Ho and use the narrow Kpeve hill road or go back to Asikuma to use the eastern corridor road which makes the journey longer. There is the narrow road by the foot of the hill through Anyirawase which is not one of the best of roads going to Kpeve from where those going to Kpando or Hohoe can choose their routes.
Those who may want to park their vehicles at Akrade or Senchi – where the ferry crossings are –and use a commercial vehicle on the other side into the region do so at their own risk as the authority has not provided a secured parking place to leave their vehicles.
Others have recommended the Senchi to Juapong route which leads one back almost to Atimpoku also as an alternative. This might be ideal for saloon cars or those going to the Anum area of Eastern Region but for the trucks that are loaded with yam and other foodstuffs coming from the northern parts of the Volta Region, that is a no-go road.
We know the GHA and the minister meant well. If that bridge collapses, its repairs or restoration will cost much more than the 12.9 million euros that is being spent to rehabilitate the famous bridge which is also one of Ghana’s landmarks.
What we find unfortunate is the fact that the bridge closure and its repairs have not been properly coordinated. This is not the time for the minister to complain about the lackadaisical attitude of GWC in relocating its pipelines; this should have been completed months in advance so any leakages or malfunctionings would have been corrected well ahead of time.
Though the ferries have been provided, their weight and operating time limitations will be a great disincentive to road users especially those who may have to travel in an emergency situation in the night.
It is however those who live along the banks just across the river, who may regret it most as they could see their houses but because they came after 6pm, would have to sleep in Akrade or Senchi.
Since the rehabilitation will take two years to complete, we believe the GHA and the relevant authorities have the time and opportunity to put in some extra measures to make travelling to the Volta Region less stressful as we believe the bridge will compliment the Eastern Corridor road of which it forms an integral part. But as they are on it, it will be to government’s eternal credit and pride if the Kpeve hill road could also be widened to make the journey from the south of the region into the northern parts one seamless one.
It is not too late to make the ferry work to 8pm as the river is not a wide and treacherous one that cannot be navigated after that time.