In March of last year, the Sustainable Tourism Project started works for the Belize City Fort Point Pedestrian Walk. The 5.47 million dollar project promised to deliver a refurbished North Front Street from the bridge-foot to the Memorial Park.
It’s been a long 14 months since the ground breaking ceremony launching the development and so, residents of the city have been forced to deal extensively with the limited road access while the contractors do their work. The works are now approaching the foot of the Swing Bridge, and so today we caught up with the Project Director for an update on when they will be completely finished.
We also asked about the demolition of the newly built sidewalk in front of the Image Factory. The director told us that it is due to a drainage issue that they had to fix. She also discussed the challenges which have delayed the completion of the works.
Christy Mastry - Sustainable Tourism Project
"Well North Front street right now is about maybe another three or four weeks away from completion. The entire project was scheduled to be totally completed by the end of April. North Front St. had some unique challenges that many of the other roads didn't have or not in as much dire need of attention as North Front St. did. It was the variation of the entrances of all of the buildings to the actual sidewalk and then the relationship to the sidewalk to the road bed itself. So because of that it definitely posed a drainage challenge to the contractor. So we looked at each of the actual store front and entries uniquely. We set a zero point where all drainage would work on differently on both sides of the street and then rectify the drainage solution. As you can see now out there differently on one side of the street being a culvert solution. On the other side being kind of a gully on the lower side where the entrances were closer to the actual sidewalk itself. So because of that we're probably going to be a couple weeks over the original April deadline. But it's going to be a much better solution at the end of the day because drainage is one of the things that you have to resolve when you're working on any kind of roadwork street improvements and then also the sidewalk conditions as well.
Drainage is something that a simple slope of 1-3 or 1-12, a 2 inch or 1/4 of an inch variation could really make a difference in whether water just sits and puddles or it flows freely. With that a lot of things have to come from on-site verification and once you're on the ground once you cut the streets. I guess I encountered the perception that the fact that the contractor had until the end of April to complete the contract and that is just a legal guarantee. The issue unfortunately that we had in Belize City especially on North Front St. is that the time is related to how much we can corner off and dedicate so that the contractor can work on. One of the luxuries in the Cayo or San Ignacio projects that we completed was that because it wasn't in a major traffic artery we could have barricaded the entire site and lift everything together and start from scratch then we put everything back in. That always expedites construction. The minute you have to keep traffic flowing, public access and routing into a construction site - it always challenges the contractor. So we are very excited that they've been able to expedite as fast to finish very close to the time and it's something that unfortunately for any contractor, I wish I could give them a clean site where we didn't have to deal with all of these issues. But because of that it's just the time it takes. We've done out there almost half of a mile of road. Can I guarantee every inch? Probably not. But I am very certain that for the big rains and the flooding issues that we've engineered it in order to sustain for that. Any other small spots that we may see we are willing to do due diligence after the fact as soon as we find out."
According to Mastry, that drainage issue that they had to fix in front of the Image Art Factory did not cost any additional funds because they did not have to add any extra structures. She also spoke on the issue of the arch near the foot of the Swing Bridge which has been criticized for appearing to be too low. She told us that the height is more than adequate for majority of the vehicles to clear it comfortably, but they will be doing measurements to ensure that there’s adequate clearance.