Opportunities like the one in front of ITD’s Alan Buehrig are few and far between.
Buehrig, an ITD Bridge Engineer for the last two years, is leaving March 16 to travel to Panama for two weeks to participate in the Bridges to Prosperity (B2P) program.
Alan (pictured above at left) will be the Safety Officer on the project. A group of about 10 people from other departments of transportation, and representing private-engineering firms, contractors, and fabricators, also are going.
Buehrig’s group will construct a steel suspension bridge — the 100-foot span will connect a portion of the community to the outside roadway. The bridge will provide safe pedestrian access across the Rio Tuancle (from one side of the community to the other) year-round, especially important during the rainy season when the river swells dramatically.
Building the bridges over impassable rivers in isolated communities creates access for residents to school, markets, health clinics, and greater economic opportunity.
B2P’s founder, Ken Frantz, started the nonprofit organization in 2001 after seeing a photo in National Geographic of folks in war-torn Ethiopia struggling to get access to needed services by crossing the Blue Nile River.
See link for history of B2P: https://www.bridgestoprosperity.org/who-we-are
“This is a unique opportunity to contribute to B2P’s extraordinary mission,” Buehrig said. “I chose to become a civil engineer out of a desire to build meaningful infrastructure that directly improves people’s lives, and this definitely fits those goals.
“I also hope to broaden my knowledge of other cultures and to become a better engineer through working side by side with others across the bridge industry.”
The bridge is being built in El Macho, a small spread-out village of some 300 people located about 320 kilometers west of Panama City.
B2P is already on site, working with the local community to build the foundations. A few community volunteers are already working on it. It is B2P’s goal is to complete these projects in collaboration with the local communities.
In 2017, the NSBA (National Steel Bridge Alliance) gave a presentation to the ITD Bridge section about the program, and encouraged interested volunteers to reach out to NSBA.
Buehrig was intrigued.