Traffic was interrupted last Saturday when an area of the Western Highway collapsed. On October 30th, during the recent floods, this main artery heading west also caved in between miles 9 and 11. News Five’s Marion Ali was on the highway and spoke to officials from the Ministry of Works.
Marion Ali, Reporting
Officials from the Ministry of Works received a call from a motorist around 5:30 p.m. on Saturday that this small portion of road over the culvert at Mile 11 on the Western Highway had caved in.
David Novelo, Engineer, Ministry of Works
“What we encountered was a hole in the middle of the highway indicating that the culvert had collapsed initially. It’s not a big hole, but it’s a portion of it in the centre. Due to the nature of the culvert, which is metal, with time it has corroded and it has collapsed and the material has no support now on top and it goes on... collapse.”
Edmund Castro, Minister of State, Ministry of Works
“These culverts had been well overdue for maybe 4-5 years ago. Some of these culverts should have been changed; it’s long past the life on the durability of the culvert as you can see. I had suggested earlier when the first one collapsed, that a hundred yards from that spot, the possibility for another one to collapse is real. That same day another one collapsed a couple miles down at about Mile 9. About three to four weeks later, one hundred yards from the first one, this one collapsed. This one is worse but what is saving us is that we do not have the rush of the water to contend with. Currently we only have about 30 inches of water here, so although it’s worse in the sense that it’s a bigger job but then because we don’t have the force to contend with from the floods, I think it’s a little bit easier for us to get this one done and we should be able to get it done before 5:00 a.m.”
When our news team reached the location, material loaded onto trucks were at the site. At around 8:30 p.m. this backhoe had begun the initial work to repair the road. About an hour later, this excavator arrived to take over the task of breaking away the faulty portion of the road. Ministry of Works Chief Engineer, Lennox Bradley, and Minister of State in the Ministry of Works, Edmund Castro, explained to News Five what their team’s repair work encompassed.
Lennox Bradley, Chief Engineer, Works
“What the emergency response team is doing right now is to bring in an excavator to excavate the material, take out the collapsed culvert and then we bring in the backhoe with material that we have from Belize City. Right now we have on standby about 8 trucks that will bring in material from Belize City, the excavator is on its way. As soon as that excavator is here we will continue on the process because the backhoe that we are using right now will only take us so far. It does not have the reach to really take out the culvert. But this will speed up the process; it’s taking out the top material right now and as soon as the excavator comes in it will take out the culvert that is underlying the material right now that the backhoe is taking out.”
“There are two 6 foot culverts here going across the road, once we remove the first one, more than likely the second one is also damaged. So we might have to really replace both of them or put in a box culvert here. I know that we were just in the process of, according to the C.E.O., to get the contractor to start to replace the two culverts that we had fixed in the emergency situation and now this is a third one. So I think what we need to do is to have someone inspect all of these culverts and to see how we can find the money and replace them.”
Luckily, the collapse was caught before it could cause a traffic mishap, but because so many other existing culverts have served their time, Ministry personnel urge drivers to be cautious on the nation’s highways because of the direct effect their constant deterioration have placed on the integrity of the roads above them.
“Definitely this could have caused an accident because people use this highway and they really drive fast. So if you’re driving on the highway and you drop in a hole like this, that definitely would have flipped, yes.”
“We need to put a comprehensive plan together to make sure that we can go through the entire bridges; all the bridges and all the culverts in this country and really inspect them and do whatever necessary repairs that needs to get done so that we can save life because something like this happen next week can really cause some loss of life or the slowing down of the traffic.”
The collapse caused traffic interruption for several hours, with ministry personnel leaving only one lane open until they completed emergency repairs early Sunday morning.
Reporting for News Five, Marion Ali.
By dawn Sunday morning the 2 lanes at the site on the highway were open to traffic.
Channel 5 News, 11/24