Trans-Gambia Bridge Project – what you need to know

Wednesday, May 21, 2014
The Trans-Gambia Bridge Project was in the news recently, with the convening in Banjul on May 14 of the joint technical committee of The Gambia and Senegal on the ongoing project.

The proposed project will be financed by ADF and the two participating governments, and will be executed over a period of five years (2012 – 2017).

The selected site, located 120 m downstream of the current ferry site, provides best alignment with existing road alignment on either bank and also ensures continuance of ferry operations during construction.

The type of bridge structure chosen was a 942m cantilever bridge with pre-stressed concrete segments of variable height in the centre span and constant height on other spans. The proposed use of concrete structure makes good use of resources available in the region as well as promotes sound maintenance strategies that require limited interventions and expenditure.

The total project cost including contributions from the two governments is UA 67.36 million (EUR 75.02 million). These cost estimates are based on the detailed design studies of the project as well as international norms and average unit prices for the works and services.

According to a detailed African Development Fund (ADF) document on the project, available online, “due to the magnitude, complexity and varying readiness of project components, the project is to be implemented in two phases.

The total project cost of phase I, including contributions from the two governments is UA 67.36 million. The project is co-financed by the Bank Group (99.07%), the Gambia government (0.24%) and the government of Senegal (0.69%). This will be covered by an ADB grant of UA 63.55 million to the Republic of The Gambia and a loan of UA 3.18 million to the Republic of Senegal.

Phase I includes the construction of the Trans-Gambia bridge and two one-stop border posts. The construction of the one-stop border posts is in line with the ECOWAS decision on the establishment of a regional road transport and transit facilitation programme in support of intra-community trade and cross-border movements.

Phase II comprises the rehabilitation of 137 kilometers of the Senoba-Ziguinchor road in Senegal and pavement strengthening of 24 kilometers of the Farafenni –Senoba road in The Gambia.

Studies for Phase II are yet to be completed. In support of development of sections of the corridor, Japan’s JICA intends to finance rehabilitation of 40 km of Dinguiraye-Keur Ayip in Senegal.

The sector goal of the project is to support economic growth of the countries on the Trans-Gambian Corridor (Kaolack-Trans-Gambian Highway-Ziguinchor), considered part of the Trans-West African Highway (Dakar –Lagos Corridor) and ECOWAS at large by fostering integration through reliable, efficient and seamless transport infrastructure that will increase the competitiveness of the whole region.

The objectives of the project are to facilitate overland traffic flow between the northern and southern parts of both The Gambia and Senegal, and by extension among the ECOWAS member states. The project is expected to improve transit and accessibility of the communities in the project’s zone of influence to markets and other social-economic activities. The expected outcomes include: (i) reduced transport cost, travel time and customs formalities time at the borders; and (ii) enhanced potential for trade thereby contributing to poverty reduction and social-economic empowerment of communities on the corridor and the West African Region as a whole.

The Trans-Gambian Corridor is an economic and strategic link connecting the northern and southern parts of The Gambia and Senegal. Interstate transit on the corridor is characterised by several barriers that include lack of a reliable connection at Yalitenda, currently serviced by a ferry across the Gambia River and poor road conditions. Additional challenges include non-physical obstacles such as numerous check posts, long and costly customs procedures and lack of equipment at borders. The effect of these barriers is slow movement of freight leading to high transaction costs thereby hindering national and regional trade. The project is thus an effort to address these challenges on the corridor.

During the project preparation phase, the Gambia government expressed preference to finance the bridge through either a concessionary loan or grant, with the bridge being managed and maintained, as required by Gambian law, by the country’s National Roads Authority (NRA).

The proposed project will be financed by ADF and the two participating governments. In line with its request and demonstration of commitment to the project, the Gambia government is expected to contribute 0.25% (UA 0.16 million) to cover compensation related costs.

The government of Senegal is expected to contribute 13% (UA 0.47 million) to cover costs for project coordination activities.

The bridge will facilitate movement within the ECOWAS zone along the Trans-Gambia corridor. The population along the corridor is estimated at 925,206, out of which about 52% are women. The area is predominantly rural with high agricultural production of groundnuts, rice, sorghum and vegetable but with more than 60% poverty rate.

One of the main reasons behind the area’s poverty rates is the lack of reliable transport infrastructure to link farms to markets. In addition to the bridge, the project includes rehabilitation of 15 km of feeder roads and construction of two regional markets.

The institutional setup of the project takes into account the principle that each country retains full ownership of infrastructure within its sovereign territory.

At the bilateral level, Senegal and The Gambia have held several consultative meetings on cooperation and re-affirmed their commitment to comply with the ECOWAS convention of Interstate Road Transit of Goods (IRST).

A high level Memorandum of Understanding to operationalize optimal transit and transport facilitation arrangements is being finalized and will be in effect prior to the project’s completion

During the conduct of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment, public consultations with various stakeholders were undertaken in The Gambia and Senegal.

These consultations were meant to: (i) present the project to the stakeholders; (ii) seek their views and concerns with regards to the project’s impacts; and (iii) identify key activities that could contribute to and complement the design of the project.

The project has incorporated specific design features in response to the concerns raised by stakeholders. These include: (i) construction of two markets; and (ii) rehabilitation of feeder roads.