The New Yallahs Bridge - A sigh of Relief!

Construction of the new Yallahs Bridge, which began in September 2007, is now completed. This 159 - metre, composite highway structure was opened to traffic on Thursday, August 14, 2008, eleven (11) weeks ahead of its scheduled completion date of October 31, 2008. The Yallahs Bridge has been constructed across the Yallahs Ford (located between Albion and Poor Man’s Corner in St. Thomas), by a Consortium (Pihl & Sons / Mabey & Johnson), at a contract sum of J$402,707,440.

History of the Yallahs Ford

The Yallahs Ford had been in existence for nearly five decades. It was built as a private fording and used as such in the 1960’s – 1980’s. Over the years, the Ford has been flooded several times, sustaining extensive damage on some of these occasions. During Hurricanes Lili and Isidore in September/October 2002, for example, the Ford was totally destroyed and again during torrential rains in 2003, at which time the two-hundred and forty-foot (240ft) Bailey Bridge which was erected in mid-October 2002, had to be taken out, after the eastern abutment was washed out, resulting in the collapse of the bridge (cf. Report of the Environmental Impact Assessment of the Proposed Yallahs Bridge Construction, Pg.1 & 3).

Flooding of the Yallahs Ford had, over the past years, consistently resulted in the road becoming impassable for extended periods, severing links to eastern Jamaica, via this route, and causing much inconvenience to residents of St. Thomas. The newly constructed Yallahs Bridge, then, is anticipated to be a permanent solution to the perennial problem of extensive flooding and destruction of the Ford whenever the Yallahs River is in spate.

Design of the New Yallahs Bridge

The Yallahs Bridge is comprised of four spans of 34.5m, 45.0m, 45.0m and 34.5m (total 159m in length) and measures 12.1m in width. The cross section (width) consists of one 9.1m carriageway (two traffic lanes); two 1.2m foot walks; and two 0.5m parapet plinths. It has been designed for a life span of 75 years and was built with a flow depth (distance/clearance underneath the bridge) of 6.7 metres (approximately 20ft). This new bridge is supported on piles which were anchored at an average of 30 metres (approximately 100ft) underground, with a 10-metre perimeter by 3.5 metres deep scour protection (protection of the piles). The Scour Protection was done via the Rip Rap method, i.e. backfilling/reinforcement of the piles with approximately 6,000 cubic tonnes of boulders. 

In further support of the expectation that the new Yallahs Bridge is to be a permanent, or (conservatively), a more stable solution to the pre-existing Ford, it might be comforting to know also, that the new Yallahs Bridge was designed for a one in one hundred years (1:100) peak flow, which means that the Bridge is expected to withstand flood flows which are expected to occur only once in 100 years.

In addition to the completion of Yallahs Bridge, Bunding works are expected to commence shortly, upstream the Yallahs River. This, in order to regulate flow within the river course and further reduce the probability of flooding.

It is the NWA’s hope that the residents of St. Thomas and, in indeed the many motorists who will traverse the new bridge, will all echo the sentiments of Project Manager, Lynval Ramdial, when he says of the Yallahs Bridge, “A sigh of relief, at last!”

Project Timeline: 
Saturday, September 1, 2007 to Thursday, August 14, 2008