The 40-metre arch bridge is made mostly of new generation composite materials, creating a tourism landmark

Baakens River gets composite bridge

WORK is completed on the R8-million pedestrian bridge over the lower Baakens River to capitalise on the precinct’s mushrooming heritage, culture and outdoor activity hub.

Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA) spokesperson Luvuyo Bangazi said, in a first for South Africa, the 40-metre arch bridge is made mostly of new generation composite materials, creating a tourism landmark and at the same time stimulating the Bay-based national composites cluster.

“As an urban renewal project, the bridge links Port Elizabeth’s inner city to the already bustling Lower Baakens. It serves as a practical connector, allowing people to park their cars in the expansive parking space on the north side of the river and then stroll across to see the restored St Peter’s church or attend, for example, a trail run, mountain bike or off-road motorbike race, or to enjoy one of the music and good food events,” Bangazi added.

Project manager Thandie Mafu said they had chosen to go the composites route in keeping with the MBDA mission to always push for innovation. Taking the opportunity to boost the Bay’s leading role in this sector, based at the Propella Incubator just up the road, had also made sense.

“There was a 3% increase in the capital cost over going only with traditional steel and timber, but we will easily recoup this in reduced maintenance,” said Mafu.

The bridge is built at an angle to help prevent debris being trapped during heavy rains, and the arch raises the structure 3.37 metres at its mid-point, out of the reach of flooding. Lights are cast into the railings, which curve up overhead.


The Baakens River

The Baakens River is a 23km urban river, which originates on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth in wet sponges. It meanders through the residential suburbs and culminates at the city centre, flowing into the Algoa Bay Harbour.

The city of Port Elizabeth in fact owes its location to the Baakens River due to the availability of freshwater for Dutch sailors in the late 18th century. Its name was coined by the Dutch East India Company who placed a beacon at the mouth of the river to claim the right to the water source. They termed this source ‘Baakjes Fonteyn’ that ultimately translated to ‘Baakens’.