Lagos — Aminu Oluwatimilehin, a commercial driver who plies Yaba area in Lagos, couldn't hide his excitement over the reopening of the Third Mainland Bridge by the Federal Government penultimate week after about three months of repair.
He told Weekly Trust that his happiness is manifested in the ease he works and his improved health, adding that during the three-month closure of the bridge, he spent hours on the road on a trip which should take not less than 45 minutes.
"Although there were alternative routes provided by the Lagos State government, it was not enough to prevent the traffic gridlock on the road because of the number of motorists in the state. We increased transport fare, but what we made was not enough to compensate for what we go through daily in traffic. The stress was too much for me. I was hospitalized twice during the closure of the bridge.
"There is no doubt that the reopening of the bridge has lifted my spirit. It is enhancing our service and I am happy for it, because I can now determine the hours I spend on a trip. The bridge is now better, firmer and the fear of collapse is no longer there," he explained.
Oladele Gbenga, a banker in one of the new generation banks in Victoria Island, Lagos, said the reopening of the bridge was a welcome development for him.
He said he usually came late to work during most period of the closure and that his work was threatened at a point.
Aminu and Oladele are not the only ones who are happy with the reopening of the Third Mainland Bridge. Traders and passengers have also expressed joy over the completion of the major repair of the bridge and its eventual reopening.
They said the reopening of the bridge is an opportunity to again enjoy the comfort with which they ply the bridge. They also said bringing back the bridge now when the yuletide is around the corner gives them the opportunity to recover what they lost during the closure.
Besides, the impact of the reopening of the bridge was felt more by participants at the just concluded 26th International Trade Fair and Exhibition organised by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry which held at the Tafawa Balewa Square.
One of the exhibitors, who identified himself as Niyi told Weekly Trust that the reopening of the bridge and reduction of pressure on other link roads to the fair, boosted it.
"It really boosted participation and sales. Some of us didn't regret that the fair took place here this year."
A bus passenger, Olubiyi Akinolu, who lives in Oworonsoki, told Weekly Trust that bringing back the bridge is a relief to him and his young family. "I moved here when the bridge was closed. It was difficult coping with life. I spent hours on the road due to diversion and also paid more for transport fare," he said.
Our correspondent, who took a ride on the bridge, observed that a major repair was actually done there. Holes which dotted some portions had been filled with bitumen; rails had been replaced and the bridge is now well lit.
Weekly Trust also learnt that the vibration on the bridge which caused nightmare for motorists has reduced to the barest minimum. The bridge is now firmer, while security operatives now mount constant surveillance to prevent men of the underworld from causing damage to it.
The Federal Government formally reopened the Third Mainland Bridge on October 29, this year, barely three months after it was partially closed for intensive repair works at eight expansion joints on both sides of the 11.8kilometre-long bridge in Africa.
The repair gulped about N1.5 billion.
Minister of Works, Mike Onolememen, an architect, in his address at the official reopening of the bridge, noted that the Federal Government has kept faith with the promise that the repair works that commenced on August 10, 2012 would be completed about November 6, 2012, as it has come to pass.
Onolememen said not only were the repair works completed 10 days ahead of schedule, they were also completed at the awarded contract sum without variation.
He said the project employed specialised technology which is not readily available in the country, adding that the materials utilized, hydro-demolition machine, as well as technical expertise used for the project were all imported.
According to him, dynamic investigation report which was completed and submitted to his ministry indicated that one expansion joint with vertical gaps greater than 10 mm at Axis 10-11, 13-14, 16-17 and 25-26 along the Lagos bound carriageway were in very critical state and required immediate repairs.
He said seven joints at Axis 55-56, 57-58 and 64-1along the Lagos bound carriageway and 13-14, 22-23, 34-35 and 43-44 along Oworonshoki bound carriageway had vertical gaps between 4-10 mm on border line.
He further noted that 16 joints on the inbound and 19 joints on the outbound carriageways equally required regular cleaning, stressing that the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) would be directed to add this to their maintenance programme.
He said joints at Axes 13-14, 19-20, 16-17 and 25-26 were restored in an earlier contract executed in 2006 by the ministry using the same contractor.
The minister, who said traffic diversion plans and programmes had been implemented with the relevant stakeholders to minimise congestion and inconveniences to the populace during the period of partial closure of the bridge from July 6 to October 30, 2012, added that actual demolition of sections of the bridge deck affected at Axis 64-1 for the restoration of the joints had been completed and reinstated.
During the partial closure of the bridge, traffic was diverted for those coming from Lagos Island to the Mainland, at Adeniji Adele between 00:00am and noon
Commissioner for Transport, Kayode Opeifa, said motorists were diverted to Carter Bridge and thereafter proceeded to Iddo where the redistribution will take place while inward Lagos Island traffic diversion started from noon from Anthony- Oworonshoki inter change.
According to him, the two scenarios were critical measures taken to ensure the flow of vehicular traffic throughout the period of the repairs.
About 700 officers of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, were deployed to areas close to the bridge to ameliorate the plight of motorists and commuters. Chief Executive Officer of Financial Derivatives Limited, Mr. Bismark Rewane puts the total cost of the closure of the Third Mainland Bridge to Nigerians to N45 billion
"Going by the average number of cars plying the bridge daily and each car carries three passengers and as a result of the diversion, an average car spent three extra hours in traffic daily.
When you aggregate the above and other associated costs, the true cost of the closure according to him, ranged between N40 billion and N45 billion.