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Bridge Builders Serve Those in Need

Thursday, March 10, 2016

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A group of bridge professionals will travel to Panama next month to donate their time and skills to build a footbridge serving an isolated area of the country.

The National Steel Bridge Alliance (NSBA) is collaborating on the project with Bridges to Prosperity (B2P), a nonprofit that builds footbridges in isolated communities across the world, the association announced March 3.

The Panama project will take volunteers to the hamlet of Lura, in Churuquita Grande, Coclé, Panama, from April 9 to 22.

"The primary goal is to implement sustainable, year-round access to both sides of the river to the community of Lura, as well as provide education and training on bridge building and repair," said Jeff Carlson, NSBA regional director and Lura Bridge project manager.

Lura Bridge, Panama
Photos: Bridges to Prosperity

A team of volunteers will provide the labor and skills to build a 51-meter (about 168- foot) suspension bridge across the Lura River in Panama to replace the existing bridge (shown here).

In most isolated communities like these, NSBA said, walking and horseback may be the only forms of transportation, which makes crossing most bodies of water precarious, especially when the rivers swell.

Inadequate infrastructures also keep inhabitants from leaving their community to access agricultural, educational, economic and healthcare resources, perpetuating poverty, the association noted, citing the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals.

Building the Team

Carlson will travel to Lura, four hours outside Panama City, with a team of fellow volunteers that includes:

  • Rafael Davis, P.E. (Arizona DOT);
  • Jonathan Hirschfeld (Hirschfeld Industries LP);
  • Mike Keever, P.E. (California DOT);
  • Jessica Martinez, P.E. (Colorado DOT);
  • Curt McDonald, S.E. (HDR, Inc.);
  • Theodore (Tad) Molas, P.E. (WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff);
  • Nate Neilson (Utah Pacific Bridge and Steel);
  • John Rohner, P.E. (CH2M HILL); and
  • Josh Sletten, S.E. (Utah DOT).

The group is unique to B2P's Industry Partnership Programs, according to NSBA, because of the diversity in the type of organizations involved.

Building the Bridge

Together, the team will provide the labor and skills to build a 51-meter (about 168- foot) suspension bridge across the Lura River to replace the existing bridge.

The B2P staff is already on site and building the substructure, so the volunteer team is working with them and residents of Lura to finalize their construction plans.

When they begin work on the bridge site, the group will put in 6 10-hour days, from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., each week during their stay. They will rely on electricity from a generator, as well as basic tools, which will be supplied.

The volunteers will bring personal protective equipment for themselves and community volunteers, afterwards donating them to B2P for future projects.

When complete, the new infrastructure will connect 500 people to vital services, such as healthcare, jobs and markets, and give almost 200 children the opportunity to attend school through the rainy season, the association noted.

Living Simply

During their two-week stay, the team members will live similarly to the local community, the association said.

Bridges to Prosperity, Bolivia

In 2016, B2P will build 40 new footbridges, increasing the overall total to more than 200 bridges and raising their cumulative impact to one million people worldwide. A bridge the nonprofit built previously in Bolivia is shown here.

Without running water and electricity, they will sleep in tents, use outhouses and take bucket showers. They will only be able to access electricity at a nearby health post and a church. With limited cellphone service in the area, calls will rely on a community phone that is powered by a satellite dish and a solar panel.

Every few days, one or two team members will drive to the closest town, Penonomé, an hour away, to purchase groceries and use the Internet.

In the evenings after their workday, the group will be able to enjoy the countryside and play music and sports like soccer or Frisbee with the residents.

About Bridges to Prosperity

B2P envisions a world where poverty caused by rural isolation no longer exists. They work with isolated communities to create access to essential economic, educational and healthcare opportunities by building footbridges over impassable rivers. Through local engagement, from regional governments to members of each partner community, B2P is committed to a sustainable model that puts the focus on people and the opportunities that make it possible for them to thrive. In 2016, B2P will build 40 new footbridges, increasing the overall total to more than 200 bridges and raising their cumulative impact to one million people worldwide.

About the National Steel Bridge Alliance

The NSBA, a division of the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC), is dedicated to advancing the state-of-the-art of steel bridge design and construction. This national, nonprofit organization is a unified voice representing the entire steel bridge community. The NSBA seeks to facilitate and coordinate industry efforts that enhance the deployment of steel bridge design and construction in the U.S. through technology confidence building, infrastructure strengthening, and market awareness. The NSBA maintains a committed focus on assisting its membership with their bridge design needs and technical information associated with steel bridge construction.

   

Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Bridges; Community service; Donations; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Industry News; Latin America; National Steel Bridge Alliance (NSBA); North America; Program/Project Management

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