By G. Michael Reid

The recent rains have exposed just how ridiculous it is to fix streets and not factor in drainage. No one can deny that the streets that have been cemented are pleasant to drive on but without proper drainage, there is much inconvenience when it rains and you can be sure that the expected lifespan will be cut considerably shorter. Nothing accelerates corrosion quicker than water and even the better mixes of cement will be no match for the constant exposure to that element.

According to the Mayor, he has identified a hundred streets that he hopes to complete by the end of this year. Any plans for thereafter are uncertain. The problem is that while much attention is being given to those one hundred streets, (actually it almost seems that all at the same time), there are hundreds more that are being neglected. Those who must drive those other streets live in fear that by the time the hundred new ones are completed they will have no vehicle in which to drive upon them.

We are continuously informed that there is a divine “master plan” which is supposed to transform our city into a sparkling, modern metropolis. One has to wonder why there was no provision in that plan for drainage. And how exactly were these hundred streets selected? There are a few streets that I can think of that certainly should have been given priority. The first that comes to mind is Ebony Street. Ebony is a street north of Vernon Street that runs from Central American Blvd all the way to Youth for the Future Drive; which of course, connects to the Bel-China Bridge. The paving of this street would have to include a small bridge but would solve a myriad of problems.

In particular since many major roads are blocked simultaneously with repairs, this street would present an alternative route across the Southside. Many vehicles try to avoid the two traffic lights on the boulevard (which for the most part are very poorly calibrated) by turning down behind the Civic and driving to the canal side in the Back-a-Town area. They then drive up to Vernon Street but must go up-stop in crossing the bridge into Lakeview Street. With a bridge across the canal on Ebony, vehicles could either traverse all the way down to the Bel-China for a quicker access to the Northside or cross the bridge before turning right into Lakeview. Many accidents happen at the bridge on Vernon Street where vehicles try to beat on-coming traffic to get across in order to turn into Lakeview and drive on down onto Cemetery Road. One has to wonder if there is nothing in the master plan about this.

The second street that should have been given high priority is Hicatee Street. Hicatee runs behind the Roger’s Stadium and into West Collet Canal where the market is. Hicatee is the street that most people from far Southside use to walk to the market. When it rains, that street is a holy mess. When it is dry, it is full of deep potholes and drains that are never clear.

It is basically the only place available to park within reasonable walking distance of the market on a Saturday morning. Even though when the market was being planned, it was promised that no longer would venders be allowed to park on the street, this part of the plan has been totally abandoned. Not only are the wholesalers on the street during market days but they can be found retailing their produce in the City Council compound any day of the week. This is very unfair, in particular to retail vendors who are unfortunate to have stalls in the rear of the ridiculously planned market.

A visit to public market in particular on a Saturday morning can be a pleasurable experience. One can stumble on any number of friends and catch up on the latest gossip. It is basically an equalizer, for if only for that one short morning, all of us are one. The locals, the foreigner, the rich, the famous, the elite and just about every ethnic group all converge on one area to purchase their fresh meats and vegetables and to rub shoulders with fellow human beings from other walks of life. This is why it is so important that proper planning should have been put into the construction of this market.

The Michael Finnegan Market stands as a monument to failed and poor planning; an absolute waste of money! Built at a cost of a whopping 1.3 million dollars, it is supposed to house seventy vendors but tries to fit more like seven hundred. This results in a massive spillover with more vendors on the outside than there is on the inside. Maybe it is time to consider covering the canal and putting the vendors up there, clearing the street for the traffic for which it was built. On any Tuesday, Friday and Saturday morning, it is impossible to drive on either side of the canal and now even on Dean Street up to Euphrates. This seems to have been all thrown together with absolutely no planning and it presents a precarious situation for anyone trying to drive in that area during those days. Some might consider it a necessary inconvenience but with a little planning, it could all have worked out so much better. I guess you can say that the Michael Finnegan Market, like Mayor Bradley’s streets, is a perfect example of how just about everything is done in this helter skelter town. Welcome to our Belize.

The Belize Times