Sunday, April 21, 2024

Delays in construction at Sir Barry Bowen Bridge; wooden section in need of immediate repair


Construction on the Sir Barry Bowen Bridge in the Boca del Rio area has stopped for quite some time now, and only one section has been renovated. The original wooden half of the bridge is yet to be renovated. Residents have become increasingly concerned about when this section will be refurbished as it continues to deteriorate under the heavy use of small and large vehicles. According to motorists, the old bridge section shakes, and some wooden boards seem loose. In May, the San Pedro Town Council (SPTC) stated that works on this part of the bridge would start immediately following the completion of the first half; however, the delay was not clearly explained. The latest update from the Mayor indicates that the second phase to replace the second wooden half of the bridge will start at the end of this month.
The construction should commence by the end of September, and according to Mayor Gualberto ‘Wally’ Nuñez, the works will be completed by the end of December 2022. Mayor Nuñez is asking for everyone’s cooperation as when the works start, all traffic will be diverted to the concrete section of the bridge. This is expected to create some congestion which will be alleviated when the other half of the bridge is completed. The bridge is being designed as a two-lane structure guiding traffic north and south respectively. The new bridge will include lighting and vegetation to beautify the area. “We want to make it an iconic landmark for San Pedro,” Mayor Nuñez said.
After taking office in March 2021, Mayor Nuñez prioritized renovating the original wooden bridge and replacing it with a concrete structure. There were concerns that it would collapse, and because the island had developed over the years, a new and sturdy bridge was imperative. The Mayor said they had secured a $2 million loan for the project, and in late December 2021, construction started on the bridge.
Traffic on the bridge not monitored
The issue of traffic on the bridge continues to raise eyebrows as it was to be monitored daily. Large vehicles, like cargo trucks, were only to use the concrete side of the bridge. However, according to motorists, the monitoring is not constant and large vehicles are noticed using the bridge’s weak, old wooden section. Another issue noted by those accessing the bridge is that large vehicles, like dump trucks, cross simultaneously without restrictions. A visit to the bridge on Tuesday, August 30th, confirmed the use of the wooden section by larger vehicles.
The reconstruction of the bridge
When it was first announced that the bridge would be renovated, many on the island welcomed the improvement. However, as the project’s first phase was nearing its end, some stakeholders noticed something wrong with the construction. According to tour guides and some tour operators, the bridge appears too low for large boats. The water canal at Boca del Rio connects to the lagoon side of the island, but according to some tour operators with larger vessels, a lower bridge means they will have to go around the southern tip of the island. They say this is inconvenient and gas-consuming. They claimed this was not the case with the original version of the bridge and criticized the SPTC for not consulting with the public on the new bridge’s design. They hope that the island community will be consulted for future projects to avoid inconveniences that may impact the lives and services of stakeholders and residents.
The Sir Barry Bowen Bridge opened in 2006 and was designed only for lighter vehicles like golf carts, bicycles, and pedestrians. With the island’s rapid growth, the bridge needs to be replaced with a more substantial structure to accommodate the growing demands of San Pedro.

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