Flatiron’s first Bridges to Prosperity volunteer team of 2012 has successfully completed a much-needed footbridge in Santa Lucia, Condega, Nicaragua. Flatiron, a Firestone, Colo.-based transportation and infrastructure contractor, has partnered with the nonprofit Bridges to Prosperity since 2009.

More than 50 Flatiron employees have helped design and build footbridges over impassable or life-threatening river crossings in rural areas of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and now Nicaragua.

At each bridge site, Flatiron sponsors a multi-disciplinary team of employees—engineers, supervisors, laborers and support staff. These employees also act as onsite trainers for the local residents, teaching design, construction and maintenance fundamentals.

A team of 11 volunteers—including five employees from Flatiron, four from sister company Turner Construction and two from subsidiary E.E. Cruz—departed for Nicaragua on Feb. 4. The volunteers, along with local Nicaraguan masons and Bridges to Prosperity’s in-country project manager, assembled, erected and connected the suspension bridge during the two-week trip.

The team celebrated the bridge opening with the local community on Feb. 17, and safely returned home the next day. 
The newly completed 220-ft-long (67-meter) footbridge over the Rio Pire serves approximately 2,000 residents in three communities deep in the Chaguite Grande Mountains, a remote tobacco-growing region in the municipality of Condega.

The Rio Pire swells tremendously during the rainy season, forcing locals to wade through 100 meters of waist-deep water and then risk their lives attempting to swim across the deeper, swiftly moving water in the river’s center. The bridge allows residents to cross the most dangerous part of the river safely. Two hundred people are expected to use the bridge each day.

“The [bridge] opening ceremony was a highlight of the trip,” said Flatiron’s Dee Ann Isaacs, safety manager on the project. “It was so satisfying to watch everyone come down to see the bridge and be so incredibly thankful. This is one of the best decisions I’ve made, to go see how other people live and do something good for other people.”

“The work felt really meaningful. For me, a highlight was being able to communicate with the local people working with us and hear their stories about what this bridge means to them,” said Rafael Hammett, a Flatiron field engineer and project manager for the Santa Lucia bridge. “Something that seems so little to us is huge to them. It changes their lives.”

Flatiron will construct at least a dozen footbridges globally with Bridges to Prosperity from 2012 to 2017, including two more in Nicaragua this year. Teams from Flatiron and Turner Construction will build suspension pedestrian footbridges in El Rodeo in March and Jucuapa Abajo in May.