By ZACHERY PER
NORMAL traffic along the Highlands Highway is expected to be restored today after the heavy truck loaded with an excavator, which caused the Narazate Bridge in Henganofi, Eastern Highlands province, to collapse last Thursday, was removed.
Works personnel, with the assistance of Covec and TSC Construction workers, have been working hard to open up an access road which is expected to be completed today.
Eastern Highlands provincial Works manager Steven Sapalo was yesterday confident that the access would be completed after the truck and machine were towed out from the river on Tuesday night.
“We are working both day and night and are expecting normal traffic to be restored by tomorrow (today); we want to restore accessibilities before looking at possibilities of a by-pass and permanent bridge structures,” Mr Sapalo said.
He said they were extending the bridge with more reinforcement panels and decking to provide added strength and capacity to withstand pressures and weights from the traffic.
“I commend locals from Henganofi who cooperated very well; we will engage them for casual works.
“We will hire machines from contractors to complete the work,” he said.
Mr Sapalo said they were looking at the option of a by-pass, but since they pulled out the excavator and the truck, they are working on rebuilding the bridge to open access before looking at a by-pass and permanent works.
The highway has been cut off for the past week, denying access for trucking firms loaded with basic supplies and goods for supermarkets, hospitals, schools, businesses, resource projects sites, fuel depots and local business houses.
Aong those badly affected were the betelnut vendors who had to cross over on foot to the other side to continue on their journey.
Coffee and tea exports did not reach their destinations in Lae and Madang.
Eastern Highlands police are watching over the workmen.
Provincial police commander Chief Supt Augustine Wampe commended his officers for their commitment to ensure there was peace and also applauded the landowners for supporting the efforts.