The Japanese construction firm, Kajima, is near to closing the four-metres gap on the newly constructed bridge over Abay River, 208Km north of Addis Abeba. The bridge will be open to traffic in October 2008, according to Samson Wondimu, Public Relations head of the Ethiopian Roads Authority (ERA).
Financed by a 14 million dollar Japanese government grant, the new structure has been constructed alongside a 60-year old bridge built by an Italian construction firm; the government of Italy covered the cost of the older bridge as a compensation for war damages it had caused during its brief occupation of Ethiopia in the 1930s.
The new bridge, when completed, will be 55 metres high, standing 22 metres above the existing one. There are also nine cables stretched on either side of the bridge, tied to the columns on each side, and there is no supporting framework put in the middle of the river. This feature makes it the first cable-stayed bridge in East Africa. It also has a clear 145-metre span.
The design and construction of the bridge is state of the art, according to experts familiar with the project. It was designed by Oriental Consultants Company Ltd of Japan. Kajima, operational in 20 countries, was awarded the project in August 2005.
This bridge is part of a three-phase project financed by the Japanese government. At a total cost of 46 million dollars, Kajima has rehabilitated the Goha-Tsion trunk road, as well as the 186Km stretch from Addis Abeba to Dejen. The latter was inaugurated in April 2004.
The completion of this bridge marks the final phase of the project, and is believed to have immense significance in the traffic flow connecting the capital with the north western part of the country. Experts foresee that driving speed will double to 60Km per hour, and the volume is expected to increase from the current 360 vehicles a day to 729 in six years.