Streets and major roads across the country which were already in less than spectacular condition have been gutted by the incessant rains in the past weeks. In rural areas in the Orange Walk critical roads have become impassable, denying access to farms and villages, and in every municipality from north to south pothole infested streets have slowed traffic to a crawl. The nation’s business hub is no exception. Frustration levels continue to mount as motorists in Belize City creep over badly rutted streets which continue to deteriorate. Ironically, the city has seen an era of unprecedented infrastructure works, with City Hall laying claim to one hundred cemented streets since entering office. Still, the joy in that statistic has waned considerably, battered by the harsh reality of driving around in the old capital. Mike Rudon is just back from a drive in the city and has the story.
Mike Rudon, Reporting
These roads could easily pass for dirt tracks in some godforsaken corner of Belize, but they’re not. In fact, these are Belize City’s main streets. This is Vernon Street, one of the heavier trafficked arteries in the city. There are many, many streets like this all over the city. The truth is that a lot of them were neglected before the rains started in earnest. And with the onset of the rains, there is very little that City Hall can do at this point.
Darrell Bradley, Belize City Mayor
“When we had a little reprieve from the rains we had our people out patching and filling potholes. We are prepared as soon as we get some reprieve from the rains to go out quickly. We have our program which we are launching in which we are cementing major intersections. We are going to launch very shortly a drainage project to which the Prime Minister had committed two point five million dollars which is going to be spent purely on drainage. All of the drainage works has already been identified. We already have costing for all of it. That project is going to be done by Cisco Construction so that residents are going to be expecting some difference. It’s going to take us a little bit of time because the condition of some of these streets as a result of these rains is very bad.”
While Mayor Darrell Bradley remains focused on projects in the works, there are those who would call it ‘wearing blinders,’ because while he talks about two point five million dollar drainage works, the streets are literally falling to pieces. Central American Boulevard is one of the streets which have been neglected for a long time. There have been promises to pave it in two successive election campaigns, but it hasn’t even been maintained. Truthfully the boulevard is Central Government’s responsibility, and not City Hall’s – but that hardly matters at this point. Neither does the jurisdiction on this stretch of the Northern Highway, or what used to be a highway. Now it’s little more than a pothole riddled track.
“We had already been in discussions with other funding agencies and other funding sources. For example our assessment indicates to us that we can do the entire length of the Phillip Goldson Highway from the flag monument to the Haulover Bridge. And we would do a revenue bond and that project could be finished in eight months. You are seeing significant deterioration in that road and that’s a major interest to Belize City and that could pay for itself. We are also in coordination with the Central Government, the Ministry of Finance to fund another wave of infrastructure early in next year. The amounts that they are talking about vary but that will allow us to do something like another thirty streets. The drainage project that the Prime Minister had committed to…again that’s drainage on twenty-one streets! So there are discussions and there have always been discussions as it relates to what happens after the hundred streets.”
One hundred streets cemented, thirty more in the works, a two point five million dollar drainage project, seventeen streets to be upgraded – as we said, and to be fair, there has been unprecedented infrastructure work in the city.
“The City Council is coming into its tax season so that we will collect trade and property taxes come the first of January. We expect that we will earmark some of those funds, at least a million dollars, to be able to tackle some of those streets again. It will not be cemented streets. We can get more in terms of just ripping, grading and compacting. We are rolling out a project in relation to seventeen streets again – ripping, grading and compacting. All of those are in the Southside so that we have many projects going on. We realize that there are substantial needs in Belize City but we’re doing the best we can.”
But with all that, nobody’s smiling, and who can blame them? Mike Rudon for News Five.
In response to queries about some of the cement streets which seem to be deteriorating, Mayor Bradley confirmed that all those streets passed testing – and if there is any deterioration, the contractors will have to repair them.