If you’re a resident of Belmopan or the West, or even just a commuter passing through, you’ve definitely seen the massive program of works taking place in the Garden City, including three massive roundabouts and what is being dubbed urban work on the entrance to Belmopan and the Ring Road. It’s progress, but because the project seems to be taking an inordinate amount of time, it’s also brought the problems of inconvenience and rutted streets. The works are not being done by the municipality, but through the Belize Road Safety Project, a collaboration between the Ministry of Economic Development, Ministry of Works and other key partners. Project Manager Pamela Scott told News Five this week that what is currently happening in Belmopan will hopefully act as a model for other countries.

Pamela Scott

Pamela Scott, Project Manager, Belize Road Safety Project

“This roundabout is being set up in such a way that we are able to have two vehicles entering at the same time and exiting. One of our major challenges is ensuring that people know how to use the roundabout so we are setting up our education awareness program to address the issue. In terms of the completion date for the roundabout, we are aiming at some time in June, July or August of this year. Probably you would say that it should have been completed earlier. Probably yes, but when you are doing different types of work you do have delays in some areas in terms of the setting. We need to ensure that all the testing is being done, so we use a nucleo densimeter to ensure that compaction is at the minimum standard defined by the Ministry of Works. If that standard is not met then we can’t issue notices to continue with the other work. So we ensure that all the technical aspects are being addressed before we venture into the other stage. We need to ensure that the setting takes place, and to have setting it takes time so you might have thirty days for one process to set. Then in that interim you have climatic conditions that you have to work along with. So you’re either in the too dry season or too wet season, and how do we work out that balance? With those aspects we do have delays, but rest assured the aim is to have value for money invested in the setting up of this area.”

The inner circle of the roundabout is being constructed through partnership with Belize Natural Energy. It should be completed in about a month.

Is There Really a Need for a Wide Roundabout Near Guanacaste Park?

That’s the roundabout by Guanacaste Park, but there’s another massive roundabout being built at the junction of the Hummingbird Highway and Forest Drive. Concerns have been expressed by residents of Belmopan that there is no need for that grand a structure at that location because the traffic doesn’t seem to call for it. But Scott says that they’re building with an eye on the future.

Pamela Scott, Project Manager, Belize Road Safety Project

“You might probably say that we don’t have the need for a roundabout today, but we need to build with a plan in mind for the future. We cannot only think about Belize today. Belize is growing. Belize is not the same Belize. So it’s easier to manage roundabout than to manage traffic lights. We have seen based on experience in our country…when traffic lights are set up what happens? If you can’t maintain it over time, then we will have a lot of chaos in terms of traffic. Our aim is to save lives, so whether the roundabout is bushy or not people will still be able to go around it in an organized way and you have minimal reduction providing they know how to use the roundabout. I would say that in the Ministry of Economic Development we have to look at the future. We cannot only look at the present or the past. We have the data to support what we are doing. We need to look at what would happen in the next twenty years. Imagine you put something that will only last three to four years – then we would have to go back and redo the entire thing. That costs money. So when you look at the economic analysis of the different scope of works, then that’s the way that the decisions have been made to be able to address our road safety aspects in the future rather than just in the moment.”

Pamela Scott Discusses Other Works in Belmopan

There’s another roundabout under construction near the Western Regional Hospital. There’s also work being done on paths on either side of the Ring Road. The concept seemed to be for a jogging path and a bicycle path but the complaint has been the construction which seems to leave much to be desired.

Pamela Scott, Project Manager, Belize Road Safety Project

“Rest assured that they are not left unnoticed. As one of our international consultants says – to make an omelet you have to crack the egg. You’ll have difficulties and challenges as we start digging up the road to fix the road to actually reach to the standard that we are looking at. Yes we have the jogging path and the bike path and they are not completed. So we are doing compaction, they are doing the different layers that are necessary – the base and sub-base for that area. They are making sure the drainage is in place and it handles the volume of water necessary. Belmopan is developing and so we need to ensure that whatever water is being channeled around the Ring Road or in other areas around that urban setting model – that we are able to manage it and it doesn’t affect the road system that is being put in place. So presently we might be having some challenges in terms of it seems to be not being worked on, or it seems that we have a lot of potholes, but we are working on it and we do have our scope of works in place with clear target dates to be able to accomplish the tasks. In this case too we expected to be completed by the latter part of this year, but we are hoping that hopefully for Christmas we do have the road completed. We’ll ask the public to please bear with us a little more as we sort out all the details and ensure that the proper infrastructure is in place adhering to all the standards that are being developed.”

Ring Road to be Repaved

To round off the project, there is good news for residents of Belmopan. The entire Ring Road will be completely repaved. Scott says it’s much more than infrastructure, though.

Pamela Scott, Project Manager, Belize Road Safety Project

“What we would do is encourage drivers to move very slowly on the road and bear patience with us. It won’t be ten years, it will be less than a year to have this patience level go. Yes, the Belmopan Ring road will be paved so you will have a new Belmopan City in terms of setting up all the safety features and we are hoping that it could be a model for Caribbean countries too…not only countries in Belize but also for other countries to see what a road safety system should look like in municipalities. Additionally we will add in some features like resting areas. We’ll have signage to help those who want to live healthy on the road. The Road Safety project looks at not only the infrastructure aspect. People think about infrastructure and roads anytime you talk about road safety. But road safety is more than infrastructure. Road safety takes into consideration the economic aspect, the social aspect, the environmental aspect. For the social aspect let’s say you’re walking and you get tired. You would want to take a break, so on the Belmopan Ring Road in the urban setting there will be five resting areas in strategic areas. If you’re jogging you may want to know from what point to what point you’re jogging. Let’s say you only want to go half a mile – we’ll have clear mileposts there to indicate mileage so you’ll be able to look at your health and your safety in terms of your health safety.”

Channel 5