Saturday, July 13, 2024

The burden the Sir Barry Bowen Bridge bears


The Sir Barry Bowen Bridge that crosses the Boca del Rio was completed in 2006 and was designed only for golf carts and pedestrians. As the island grew, upgrades were needed, or the construction of another bridge. However, fast-forward to 2021, the bridge has gone with minimal repairs while accommodating the island’s rapid growth of daily wear and tear of heavy traffic. Never intended to bear heavy trucks and vehicles transporting construction materials to the popular area north of San Pedro Town, many fear it could one day collapse.

The bridge was designed by the late Sir Barry Bowen, who also secured finances for the project through an interest-free loan to the San Pedro Town Council (SPTC). For many years, toll fees were collected to pay back the loan, provide maintenance to the bridge and/or build a more substantial structure. San Pedro continued growing, increasing the number of and larger vehicles imported to the island. The island continues its course of development, and with more construction projects north of town, the bridge endures more heavy traffic than it was intended for.

In March of this year, a new administration took over the SPTC and reported that the bridge was in ill repair. Over the years, the bridge has received temporary fixes, and in June of this year, it underwent repairs that included the replacement of some corroded beams. According to the SPTC administration, the worrying condition of the bridge is due to the apparent neglect of the past administration, and they are very concerned it could one day fall. At times up to two large dump trucks have been observed crossing the bridge simultaneously; this constant overload continues to weaken the vital structure.

The toll for maintenance and plans for a new bridge

As of Monday, November 15th, fees are now collected to cross the bridge.

According to Mayor Gualberto ‘Wally’ Nuñez, the toll is to keep the bridge in good condition, while plans to construct the new one can start. Nuñez pledged good accountability of the toll, and such monies will completely renovate the existing bridge, turning it into a concrete structure.

In August of this year, Area Representative the Honourable Andre Perez said that funds were secured to build a new bridge next to the Sir Barry Bowen Bridge. The new bridge will accommodate the traffic flow heading into and from the northern part of Ambergris Caye, targeting large, heavy vehicles. Perez stated that while funds have been secured, they need to be paid back. Details of the funds/loan were not shared. Perez, however, assured islanders that a new bridge is coming in the near future.

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