"This is what we came over to do," said Cliff Mumm, program director for Bechtel's project team. "As we've said from the day we signed our contract with USAID, we're committed to developing a work program that maximizes use of Iraqi contractors and workers. Today's contract signing with Al-Bunnia is the first of many agreements we will have with Iraqi firms. This is a big, first step for all of us."
Loay Ibrahim Al-Saied, an engineer and senior official of Al-Bunnia, said work is scheduled to begin next Tuesday. He estimated that about 50 of the company's engineers and field workers will be involved in the project.
"We are so happy," Al Saied said, "not just for the contract, but to work again in our country with our people and our equipment to help rebuild our country."
The four-lane Al Mat Bridge was damaged during the recent conflict, leaving just one lane in place. An emergency assessment by Bechtel engineers determined the remaining structure was in danger of collapsing, which prompted the decision to construct an emergency bypass to keep the key highway link open. Since the conflict, over 3,000 trucks daily travel on Highway 10, bringing food, humanitarian aid, and other goods to Baghdad from Jordan.
Bechtel engineers estimate the bypass project will take two to three weeks to complete. Once done and open, the original Al Mat Bridge will be reconstructed, a three- to six-month process.
"This first subcontract should send a strong signal to Iraqi builders that there is much work out there and we need their help to get it done," Mumm said. "This is a milestone for us and an important first step in our land transportation work. We hope word of this signing will spread quickly, but to accelerate our introduction to Iraqi builders, we are planning to hold our next contractors' conference very soon in Baghdad."
Bechtel was awarded an emergency infrastructure repair and rehabilitation contract April 17 by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The $680 million agreement calls for the repair, rehabilitation, or reconstruction of vital elements of Iraq's infrastructure. This includes assessment and repair of power generation facilities, electrical grids, municipal water systems, and sewage systems. There is also a provision in the contract for the rehabilitation or repair of airport facilities, and the dredging, repair, and upgrading of the Umm Qasr seaport, in close cooperation with other USAID contractors working in those sectors.
The contract also addresses the responsibility for repairing and reconstruction of hospitals, schools, selected ministry buildings, and major irrigation structures.
"This is our first land transportation work," Mumm pointed out, "which joins the significant progress we have already made at the Port of Umm Qasr," where unexploded ordnance has been removed, the deep-water basin is being dredged, sunken vessels are being removed, and the grain elevator system is being restored and repowered so it can be put back into use by mid-June. "Our teams in Iraq are off to a solid start," Mumm added.
Bechtel is one of the world's premier engineering-construction organizations. It provides technical, management, and directly related services to develop, finance, engineer, build and operate installations for customers in a wide range of industries. To date, Bechtel has worked on more than 20,000 projects in 140 countries on all seven continents.