Mkomaas River Pedestrian Bridge

LIFE-SAVING, ECO-FRIENDLY BRIDGE WINS ENGINEER THREE MAJOR AWARDS

The Mkomaas River Pedestrian Bridge which was constructed in the Mkomaas Valley, in a remote part of KwaZulu-Natal, won its designer, Corrie Meintjes, three major engineering awards.

Before the construction of the bridge the river posed a grave danger to a community in the valley, with some children even losing their lives while attempting to cross the river to and from school during the rainy season. The community lives on both sides of the Mkomaas River and there is a trading store on one side and a school and a clinic on the other side.

The KZN Department of Transport commissioned the bridge in response to urgent requests from the community to do something about the situation.

The construction of the bridge began in November 2005 and was completed in April 2007. The estimated cost of the project upon completion was about R3,5-million.

For his efforts Meintjes, then a bridge engineer and senior partner in J&G but who now consults to them on a part-time basis, was awarded the KZN Concrete Society's Achiever of the Year, the Fulton Award for Engineering Design Aspects, and the South African Association of Civil Engineers Award for Best project with a value of less than R5 million.

The Mkomaas Bridge is the first prestressed ribbon bridge in Africa, and its clear span of 150 metres equals the world record for this type of bridge.

One of the challenges the designers faced was the sheer difficulty of the terrain itself. Precast elements had to be used in order to reduce the amount of on-site construction required.

The bridge is also eco-friendly as it does not interfere with the flow of the river and does not have stabilisers, towers or large abutments that would have imposed on the rural landscape.

"It is an innovative all-concrete design, aesthetically pleasing and environmentally responsible and functional," Meintjes said.