New bridge in Santa Elena and San Ignacio nearing completion
Ever since the Hawkesworth Bridge, a one lane suspension bridge was built and imported from Middlesbrough, England , in 1949 , it has served as the main river crossing over the Macal River linking San Ignacio to itís sister-town Santa Elena. It is currently the only drivable suspension bridge in Belize. There is also a wooden bridge further down stream that had been built as a temporary bridge to ease the flow of traffic from crossing the aging Hawkesworth Bridge. As time went by the Wooden Bridge that has now, become known as the LOW-LYING BRIDGE, has become a permanent crossing and is being used for the westward traffic heading into San Ignacio and further west. While the traffic heading east out of San Ignacio use the Hawkesworth Bridge.
There has been one problem with that arrangement though, the area where the Low-Lying Bridge is located, has been known to suffer from severe flooding episodes and crossing then becomes impossible for extended periods. When that happens, like recently when it was destroyed by the ravages of hurricane Earl in August of this year, the Hawkesworth reverted to becoming the only crossing. The traffic is slowed down because crossing from either side is then down to intervals. It is then left to the government to spend huge sums of monies to do the necessary repair works to make the wooden structure useable again. The latest repairs cost around $150,000. So back in October 2012, when government announced that it would be building a new, larger bridge to span 154 meters across the Macal River, that would link Santa Elena and San Ignacio the news was well received.
The Government of Belize secured a Loan from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) for what was being dubbed as, the Fourth Road Project (Santa Elena / San Ignacio Bypass) that was to be implemented in the Cayo District. This project was divided into four phases (Lots): the upgrading of Loma Luz Boulevard; the aforementioned new bridge crossing over the Macal River; the construction of a new high-embankment by-pass; and the rehabilitation of Joseph Andrews Drive to the point where it re-connects with the Western Highway. Lot #1 of this project involved the upgrading of Loma Luz Boulevard for approximately 1 (one) mile to its intersection with Trapiche Road, which is the point along the Macal River where a high-level bridge crossing is being constructed. Also included in the scope of works was the construction of a large diameter roundabout at the Loma Luz Boulevard / Western Highway Junction.
The Government of Belize, through the Ministry of Works announced, the signing of a construction contract to carry out Lot#1 of this project, the Upgrading of Loma Luz Boulevard. That signing took place at the Ministry of Works on Thursday April 26, 2012, at 10:00am, between the Minister of Works and the successful bidder CISCO Construction Ltd. As was anticipated the works commence immediately. And as Cisco had by then become noted for, they made a commitment to make the project as LABOUR INTENSIVE AS POSSIBLE, in order to provide much needed employment for residents of the area. Engineering and supervision for this project has been and continues to be provided by Halcrow Group Ltd., with local liaison provided by the Project Execution Unit, an arm of the Ministry of Works.
As we reported in our 2nd July 2015 issue, the actual contract , was signed three days earlier , on 29th June , on the Monday morning of that same week in Belmopan for the building of a new San Ignacio and Santa Elena bridge. That contract for the new bridge had also been awarded to Cisco construction. That came after the aforementioned had done extensive preparatory work in both San Ignacio and Santa Elena, with only the works to be done to the road tributaries that approach to the future bridge left .The contract was signed by the Hon. Rene Montero, Minister of Works and Transport with John Woods, the CISCO construction company representative. Also present for the signing was Errol Gentle, the Chief Executive Officer within the Ministry of Works. The new bridge at a cost of $ 19,961,575.16 was being made possible as a result of joint funding by the Government of Belize and the Caribbean Development Bank , and formed a part of the aforementioned BYEPASS Project.
When completed, the San Ignacio and Santa Elena Bridge will facilitate the movement of heavy duty vehicles, coming with heavy cargo from such diverse places as Guatemala and Mexico. As it now stands, the passing of big cement trucks through San Ignacio, for example, is considered a safety concern. The new bridge will allay those fears and decrease the traffic congestion that now occurs in downtown San Ignacio; especially on weekends. Today as we speak that spanking NEW BRIDGE is well underway of being completed in time for the Hurricane season and what is considered our rainy season. With that said this last congestion caused by the washing away of the wooden bridge will be a thing of the past for those of us who need or wish to cross the Macal River, because of the New Modern Bridge thatís being built as an all weather bridge.