Multi-National Division â€“ Baghdad engineers with the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, journeyed to the Grand Canal Bridge in Taji Qada, northwest of Baghdad July 22, to monitor repair progress.
The bridge, which spans a portion of the Grand Canal, is one of the key crossings along the main highway west of the Tigris River. It was damaged by two attacks last year.
The first attack happened May 11, 2007, when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated in the middle of the southbound lane, leaving a massive hole in the lane. The second attack occurred Aug. 14, 2007. Another VBIED was detonated in the northbound lane, sending a large span of the bridge plummeting into the water below.
Although temporary fixes were made, the damage caused other side effects such as increased traffic and severe corrosion to the river banks.
A local Iraqi construction company was contracted by the Government of Iraq to rebuild both lanes of the bridge and to remove fallen debris from the canal below.
â€œWhat is most significant about this project is that the Iraqis are doing this completely on their own,â€ said Capt. Mark Gillman, an assistant engineer with the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. â€œThe bridge is funded by the Iraqi Government, a local company is doing all of the work, and the Iraqi Army is here for security.â€
The project is separated into two phases. Each phase is scheduled for completion in three months. During the first phase, the contractors have worked to repair the hole in the northbound lane and break down the fallen span to remove it from the canal.
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 progress preparing foot paths, insuring the safety of the foundation and removing asphalt around the damaged area.
The steel portion of the bridge is on schedule to be finished in less than two weeks. Then the workers will move onto pouring the concrete, which should take a total of 28 days.
â€œBy the end of the year the bridge will look like it used to,â€ said Gillman, a native of Las Vegas.
Each time a vehicle crosses the bridge, it passes a large sign that canâ€™t be missed. Printed in Arabic, the sign reads â€œWe will rebuild.â€
â€œSeeing this project gives the people of Iraq confidence in themselves and their government. It gives them hope for the future,â€ said Saleem Abdul Karim, a bicultural and bilingual advisor working with the civil engineers. He is also a subject matter expert in engineering. â€œIt is a light at the end of a tunnel.â€