Trouble at the Cayo Temporary Bridge

[Linked Image] Anyone who’s been over the temporary bridge between San Ignacio and Santa Elena knew that it was wobbly at the San Ignacio end. Well, it isn’t wobbly anymore, it’s broken now! You heard right, the much used bridge gave way on Saturday. No one was hurt, and in fact it wouldn’t have looked like anything happened because the decking was intact, but underneath, the substructure was seriously compromised. So much so that Ministry of Works engineers decided to re-build the whole bridge once and for all. Our crew got the story on Sunday in Cayo just as work was starting.

Jules Vasquez Reporting,

This is the beam on the low lying temporary bridge that broke on Saturday. It’s a local hardwood, Sapodilla known for its toughness, but this is a high volume bridge and on Saturday, it gave way collapsing into the river – as the fractured beam shows even Sapodilla has its load bearing limits. Fortunately, works inspectors were there examining the bridge when it broke.

Lennox Bradley, Chief Engineer – MOW
“Yesterday we had one of the timber beams that showed failure while conducting an inspection by Ministry of Works personnel. We normally tend to conduct inspections twice a day on the bridge because we know the condition of the bridge warrants that we keep it under constant monitoring and while conducting the inspection we noticed the failed beam.

[Linked Image] If you notice Jules the beam that failed is in the center of the bridge, the center of the width. So while it is of concern to the Ministry, it wouldn’t have posed so much of a danger to the motoring public because it was at the mid-span of it. If it was a beam that was on the weight load of traffic that is traversing the bridge then yes it could have been a serious hazard to motorists.”

Now, instead of just fixing it, the plan is to rebuild the entire bridge.

Lennox Bradley,
“Since a contract is already signed with Modern Construct to have the contractor mobilize immediately. The contractor has about five months to complete the entire scope of works that is in this contract. This contract is roughly for $271,000 and entails a lot of work. By the time the contractor gets through with the completion of the scope of work this bridge will be properly rebuilt.

That contract that was signed on Tuesday with Modern Construct entails the replacement of thirty piles, 52 of the longitudal beams, seven of the cross beams, and the entire replacement of decks and runners on the top of the bridge.”

And while it will take 5 weeks, the work which started on Sunday morning will be done in phases to minimize the inconvenience to the community.

Lennox Bradley,
“We plan to do the works in phases. This first phase we expect by at least the 8th of September we will completely do repairs of two spans of the bridge. We will try to keep it closed during the celebrations and immediately after the celebrations we will continue.”

Jules Vasquez,
“So when you break it will be open to the public?”

Lennox Bradley,
“It will be open to the public but I will also need to emphasize that even during the closure, the Ministry of Works will be monitoring the bridge and if there is a need to close the bridge during the celebration, we will close it.”

Jules Vasquez,
“Will the bridge be absolutely safe, optimally safe for residents of these twin towns?”

Lennox Bradley,
“We are conducting an inspection right now to determine that Jules.”

Jules Vasquez,
“But I just want to confirm, safety is the primary consideration.”

Lennox Bradley,
“Safety is paramount, safety of the public, the general public is paramount.”

In the downtime all traffic to the temporary structure must instead take a detour meaning the trusty Hawksworth Bridge has to work double duty –with traffic management visible at that San Ignacio end of that bridge. And while the temporary bridge is repaired downriver, the long term plan is two have two permanent bridges.

Lennox Bradley,
“We will consider it a temporary structure because the long term plan of the Ministry and the government is to have a permanent replacement further downstream.”

The contract to fix the bridge was signed last week and work would have started in September if it hadn’t broken. That has now been fast-tracked. The contractor has been instructed to rebuild it with Sapodilla or Cabbage Bark hardwoods.

Live and let live