THE construction of Port Elizabeth’s highly anticipated pedestrian bridge in the Baakens Valley is underway. This iconic bridge will be built with alternative composite materials, which will be a first for South Africa. The Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA) began the conception of the bridge with the 2014 precinct plan, focusing on upgrading and the rejuvenation of the area. MBDA spokesperson, Luvuyo Bangazi, said, “The precinct plan envisaged the valley as a meeting place as well as a people’s place where various events and activities take place. Extending and connecting the inner city to the Baakens Valley is crucial because it builds a long-term vision for the city’s prospects in creating a world-class precinct for the community.”The bridge will not only provide a safe walking space, but it will also alleviate the parking congestion currently experienced by the city.The MBDA is working closely with the Mandela Bay Composites Cluster (MBCC) by finding alternative innovative methods such as using composite materials to build the bridge.MBCC managing director, Andy Radford, said, “Composite materials will allow for more creativity, as they have design flexibility and are aesthetically appealing. Not only is the material high in strength, and less theft prone but it is also corrosion resistant. A single piece made of composite materials can replace an entire assembly of metal parts.According to Radford, the composite material bridge will be a first in South Africa public use structures, marking a new era in architectural and engineering design. “The addition of composites to architecture and engineering courses is important for South Africa’s higher learning institutions,” Radford added.MBDA infrastructure project manager, Thandie Mafu said, “Composites are ideal due to their strength, environmental footprint and versatile characteristics.”According to Mafu, eight entry level SMMEs that will do civil, paving, retaining walls and wheelchair ramps have benefited with over R2.5 million worth of contracts being awarded. The R10 million project will be completed within seven months.Mafu added, “The project allows for job creation opportunities; on top of the substantial number of employees working, the agency also employs a deserving tertiary student in built environment studies to equip them with the required experience in their specialised field.” The area is also known for its 100 year flood line, hence a specific foundation is required and the height part of the bridge is 3.37m to withstand the occasional flood. The structure will be angled to avoid a build-up of debris and heavy rains.Radford said, “This is the first project we are working on with the MBDA. It is the start of a relationship that we hope will continue to grow.”Some of the work the MBDA has delivered to date in the Baakens Valley include: . The redevelopment of the Tramways Building (events venue, office and youth development centre); . Repurposing of land under the freeway to create safe and secure parking that supports events in the Baakens Valley; . Revamping of Fleming Street to link up with the valley (lighting, paving, parking, walkways, landscaping etc); . Restoration of the iconic old St Peter’s Church ruins into a must see tourism activity, including creating a boardwalk around this heritage and historic facility; . Reconfiguration of road network and additional parking on lower/upper Valley Road to support the growth of business in the precinct; . Zoning and planning for more than 1 000 urban housing units on the south bank of Upper Valley Road – in progress; Bay residents are called on to submit colour ideas for the new city landmark by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.