Residents of San Pedro have gone public to express their concerns over the steep fees they have to pay each time they need to cross the Boca del Rio Bridge that connects the north and south sides of the island. The fees are nothing new; they have been in place since the bridge was constructed five years ago, but the islanders are asking why the price has to remain the same if the loan for the bridge is almost completely paid. News Five’s Marion Ali headed east to La Isla Bonita today and filed this report.
Marion Ali, Reporting
Following reports in San Pedro that the five-dollar toll for crossing a golf cart on the Boca del Rio Bridge would remain as is, even after the loan to build the bridge is paid, San Pedro residents have voiced objection. The islanders are questioning two things: why does the fare have to remain so high after the loan is paid and why isn’t the bridge being repaired as often as it ought to, if the monies are being collected to maintain the structure.
Motorist, San Pedro
“It’s very expensive you know. Just last week I was in Orange Walk and I passed the Toll Bridge; it is only seventy-five cents that we pay. So it’s way, way too much. It’s pretty much expensive you know. I mean, we should have like because every time we pass it’s like twelve dollars we pay roundtrip. But it would be good if the money that they are charging could be used for the maintenance of the bridge because right now if you go on the other side they have a piece of plywood. So that is saying that the bridge is not being maintained.”
Motorist, San Pedro
“According to what I heard that we were going to stop paying when the bill was paid noh and they haven’t even—as you can see it is deteriorating and they haven’t even serviced it as yet. If you pass three times it’s fifteen dollars, but we buy a monthly pass which is twenty-five Belize.”
“That works out much cheaper.”
Motorist, San Pedro
“Yes it does. It helps a lot.”
But the upkeep of the bridge is something that San Pedro Deputy Mayor, Pablo Ico says is something hard to accomplish because of the effect the natural salty air has on the metal structure.
Pablo Ico, Deputy Mayor, San Pedro
“On an ongoing place where we live which is exposed to salt and corrosion, even stainless steel rusts away. So they have to realize that to carry on maintenance and repairing of the bridge, the money has to come from somewhere.”
“Are you saying that five dollars is the best possible fee that the Town Council can charge?”
“Well we haven’t really sat that on the table yet because we didn’t hear this as a complaint by any of the residents yet like how I seh. If this is brought up to the attention of the Council, of course the council will always say it and consider because we are here to work with the people not against. And we gonna also show them the list of expenses it takes and the residents will see how we can best get together and decide what fee we can decide on this bridge.”
The money to pay for the loan, financed by the late Sir Barry Bowen, is derived from the same fees collected from the residents and visitors who need to cross the bridge. But the residents object to continue paying the same fee, even people who live in the San Mateo area, which is an underdeveloped section near the bridge.
“San Mateo people, everybody knows that San Mateo has the privilege that they don’t pay any toll fee for that.”
San Mateo Resident
“I live in San Mateo and everytime I come across I have to park my golf cart and walk cross because dehn always charge me. I spoke to Mr Ico and he says that he will look after that but so far nothing.”
“But five dollars each time across?”
“Well, yes that’s been set. I’ve never heard about any complaint before. I think everybody realizes where we live on, that the cost of living is always expensive and everything that you do requires a lot of money.”
Ico couldn’t say offhand how much the Town Board collects per month from the toll, nor could he tell us how much renovations that are about to begin are going to cost. But he says anyone who would like to see the figures collected can do so by visiting the San Pedro Town Board. Marion Ali for News Five.