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COWI engineers complete footbridge in Rwanda

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​COWI Engineers Complete Footbridge and Engage in Skills Training in Rural Rwanda with Bridges to Prosperity

The rurally isolated community of Rugusa, Rwanda is now celebrating the opening of their brand new 60-metre pedestrian footbridge across the Akanyaru River thanks to the engineering team of 10 colleagues from consulting company COWI and the non-profit organisation Bridges to Prosperity. After dealing with late timber deliveries, challenging terrains and daily thundershowers, five COWI employees from London (formerly Flint & Neill) and five from Copenhagen worked tirelessly alongside the local construction team to complete the suspended footbridge in just two short weeks.

The 850-person community of Rugusa has lost 20 people to date due to the lack of a safe crossing over the Akanyaru River, with three lives lost in 2016 alone. While the river is impassable for students to reach school during the rainy season, it also prevents farmers from selling their harvest or trading their livestock at the market. Previously, the community would span the river with a temporary log structure, but it would routinely be overtaken by the river or washed away entirely. The new Rugusa Bridge will provide consistent and safe access to educational, economical and medical resources for years to come.

In addition to building the structure, the team prioritised skills training and knowledge sharing with the local labourers. Faustin, a local labourer working on the project worked closely with COWI's Construction Manager to learn how to use a variety of power tools, how to read engineering drawings, how to work in heights, and was a key part of the bridge deck installation. With the pay, knowledge and experience that he gained on the Rugusa Bridge project, Faustin will be able to enter a university engineering program this autumn. Viviane, another local labourer from Rugusa, will be able to transfer the technical skills she learned on the Rugusa Bridge project to her job working on public roads in Rwanda.

Prior to the team's arrival in country, the substructure involving the excavation, masonry abutments, towers and cable anchors were completed by local labourers. The superstructure construction activity involved setting the cable sag to achieve a required clearance to the high water level, prefabrication of the decking and fencing, and backfilling around 90m3 of the gravity foundation with rockfill.

The bridge has four cables of diameter 1¼ inches, anchored in gravity foundations on the river banks. Two cables are used for the walkway and two cables are used for the handrail. Most of the bridge deck was prefabricated in the fabrication yard to minimise work at height. The swing assembly is made of a steel SHS crossbeam, with wooden nailers and decking boards placed longitudinally along the length of the span. To improve buildability, the fencing and a kerb were also prefabricated before installation – a practice that the COWI team proposed and implemented.

Ian Firth, chair of the Bridges to Prosperity UK Trust and Director at COWI's bridge group in the UK adds, "We are very proud of the team that has just returned from Rwanda this past week. This footbridge is so much more than just a structure across a river for the residents of Rugusa. The new bridge will help create economic prosperity; access to healthcare, education and markets; and most importantly, a safe crossing for all."

This is the fifth Bridges to Prosperity project that COWI has completed globally, including three in Rwanda, one in Nicaragua and one in Panama.

About Bridges to Prosperity

Bridges to Prosperity provides access to healthcare, education and markets by teaching communities how to build footbridges over impassable rivers, in partnership with organisations, sponsors and professionals. We prove the value of our work through a commitment to the community and its bridge that lasts long after the opening celebration.

Since its beginning in 2001, the organisation has supported or constructed more than 200 footbridges in 20 countries, serving over one million people. In Rwanda alone, they have identified over 300 bridge sites that need assistance, and have 10 bridge projects already planned for 2017.

LAST UPDATED: 21.02.2017