During seasonal rains this peaceful stream can rise ten feet or more, effectively cutting off Belle-Rivière from the rest of the world. We can alleviate much of the danger and disruption by building a pedestrian bridge across this river.
Since regular flooding and the debris it brings would jeopardize support pedestals, the bridge must span a 50 meter gap (164 feet) without pedestal supports. It will also be built without using heavy I-beams or channels typical of a bridge that length making it a unique engineering and fabrication challenge.
High water rises well above the bottom branches of the big mango tree on the left.
Ever-changing water levels are disruptive and dangerous, especially for youngsters who must cross to get to school or customers and vendors who meet at the market. Several days each year, high water stops even motor vehicles and everyone simply waits to go back to "normal." A bridge for pedestrians, motorcycles, and animals, would alleviate much of the danger and inconvenience.
After a long search for an in-country source which can provide design, fabrication, and construction of such a bridge, FBR found a French-based organization called NORIA which perfectly fits the need. Noria was founded in Paris in 2005 by a group of architects and engineers to facilitate small infrastructure in developing countries. Noria works in partnership with AECP, a manufacturing organization which can fabricate and erect the bridge. Both are charitable organizations focused on promoting Haitian enterprise.
Les Ateliers Ecoles de Camp-Perrin (AECP), the organization which will build the bridge, was established as a non-profit in 1977. It is located in the town of Camp-Perrin, near Les Cayes, a major port city about 2.5 hours from B-R. In November Justin Ponthenier, an architect from France, took us on a tour of the facility where students were learning practical skills and independent craftsmen were building a variety of products. Later we visited the site of a footbridge which had been fabricated in that facility several years ago. Their intent is to create jobs so they specialize in doing work by hand rather than by automation. The bridge design will capitalize on lightweight folded steel rather than typical structural steel elements. Equally attractive, the bridge will be made with "COR-TEN" or weathering steel and thus maintenance free. This translation (from the AECP website) describes their function.
Due to the limits of our budget as well as the capabilities of the fabricator, the design of the bridge is still not final. The small vehicle shown on in the illustration is shown primarily for the sake of scale. It would be ideal if the bridge could accommodate four-wheeled vehicles but it's not clear that the fabricator is capable of such a structure or that the cost would fit within our budget.
Our goal for the construction of the bridge is January 2020, the next "dry season" when the water level of the river will be at its lowest point. That plan depends on the political stability of the country as well. Finally we know this biggest-ever-project is possible and within our grasp.