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Building the huge bridge in Las Flores in conjunction with the Honduran government has certainly had its up and downs. 

Although we provide the engineering, management, supervision, and much of the equipment (scaffolding, tools, forms for pouring cement, etc) for the project, the government provides funding for materials (cement and rebar), labor costs, and the costs related to the use of large equipment like bulldozers and the cranes that raised the beams. A small crew of paid workers sets up the forms for each concrete pour, then the local communities provide volunteer labor for the day when that pour takes place, then the paid crew tears down the forms and sets up for the next pour. In this way, the entire cost of the bridge is significantly less than normal – like about 1/8th of the price – and a large part of that savings is that no bribes or “kickbacks” are being paid!

The local government, however, doesn’t have a lot of money, and they’ve occasionally fallen behind on paying for the construction costs. There have been several times when we have had to halt work on the bridge, until the payments could be caught up again. 

The bridge is now very close to completion. The deck is poured all the way across the river, but the third of the three deck sections still needs safety walls at the sides. The dirt access ramps on either side of the river need to be bulldozed into place, and the old bridge must be torn down. And that’s it. About six weeks of work, and this bridge will be done

Unfortunately, right at this point, so close to completion . . . the flow of funds stopped, and so construction stalled out again. Frustrating for everyone, but life in a third world country involves this kind of frustration on a frequent basis. 

With no bridge work to do, the menfolk have been working on another project that is near and dear to my heart – the construction of our personal house. But this weekend, we received word of an incident that changed the situation . . .  one of the four cables holding up the existing bridge snapped! 

There are four cables running under the existing Las Flores bridge. The one to the far right snapped off where it goes into the concrete at the end.

Looking up at the underside of the bridge, you can see the three remaining cables, and the scored area on the wood where the fourth cable WAS, but is now missing. You can also see the hole where that cable used to go into the concrete structure.

The broken end of the cable. It broke right where it entered the concrete, and then the weight of the bridge pulled the cable away from the end of the bridge. Notice how the end of the cable has been wired to a board, so that it doesn’t get pulled any farther. This is keeping the whole bridge from tilting sideways!

Because it wasn’t being held in place anymore, the cable pulled up between the boards in the places where the stringers connected to it. This allowed the bridge to sag badly at these points.

These “humps” of cable shouldn’t be there . . . that’s the cable that should be strung tightly across, holding up the bridge.

Looking down from the new bridge, you can sort of see how badly the old bridge is now slanting to one side. And really? This bridge wasn’t exactly the safest you’d ever seen, before this cable broke!

With this cable broken, only pedestrians and motorcyclists are using the existing bridge. There is a ford nearby, but generally only larger vehicles use it. The little local taxis are too big for the bridge and too small for the ford, so those cannot be used at all now, by the communities on the far side of the bridge.

Yesterday we received a call from the municipal government in Las Flores, telling us that they had found the money to pay to get the construction work on the new bridge up and running again. We had been expecting the call . . . we knew they’d have to come up with the money for the work, now that the situation had become rather urgent! 

So, Monday morning, our crew will be back in Las Flores, finishing the new bridge there! It will be wonderful to have it done – both for us, and for the people who will be able to cross it!