By Army Pfc. Lyndsey R. Dransfield
Special to American Forces Press Service
July 25, 2008 - Multinational Division Baghdad engineers with the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team journeyed to the Grand Canal Bridge in Taji Qada, northwest of Baghdad, on July 22 to monitor repair progress. The bridge, which spans a portion of the Grand Canal and is one of the key crossings along the main highway west of the Tigris River, was damaged by two terrorist attacks last year.
The first attack happened May 11, 2007, when a terrorist detonated a bomb-laden vehicle in the bridge's southbound lane. Three months later, another vehicle bomb, this one in the northbound lane, sent a large portion of the bridge plummeting into the water below.
Although temporary repairs were made, the damage caused other side effects, such as increased traffic and severe corrosion to the river banks.
The Iraqi government awarded a contract to Rownaq al Mas, a local construction company, to rebuild both lanes of the bridge and remove fallen debris from the canal below.
"What is most significant about this project is that the Iraqis are doing this completely on their own," said Army Capt. Mark Gillman, a Las Vegas native and an assistant engineer with the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team. "The bridge is funded by the Iraqi government, a local company is doing all of the work, and the Iraqi Army is here for security."
The project is separated into two phases, each scheduled for completion in three months. During the first phase, the contractors are working to repair the hole in the northbound lane and break down the fallen span to remove it from the canal piece by piece. During the second phase, they will focus completely on rebuilding the missing portion of the bridge in the southbound lane.
The workers began construction June 29 and have made a good amount of progress preparing foot paths, insuring the safety of the foundation and removing asphalt around the damaged area to begin installing the steel received last week.
The steel portion of the bridge is on schedule to be finished in less than two weeks, and from there, the workers will move on to pouring the concrete, which should take 28 days.
"By the end of the year, the bridge will look like it used to," Gillman said.
Each time a vehicle crosses the bridge, it passes a bold sign that can't be missed by the passengers inside. Printed in Arabic, the sign screams the words "We will rebuild."
"Seeing this project gives the people of Iraq confidence in themselves and their government," said Saleem Abdul Karim, bicultural and bilingual advisor who works with the civil engineers and is a subject matter expert in engineering. "It gives them hope for the future; it is a light at the end of a tunnel."
(Army Pfc. Lyndsey R. Dransfield serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)