The Phillip Goldson Highway between Belize City and the Haulover Bridge is undergoing a major transformation. Yes, it looks like the road is being fixed and drainage installed, but the plan is much bigger. Sahar Vasquez found out more today:
Sahar Vasquez reporting
Belize may be home to the second largest barrier reef, the sea is never far away, our rivers meander as far as the eye can see. Those are just a few of the stunning highlights in our jewel,
2) but one thing Belize is not really known or remembered for are our roads. For decades we have been either falling into potholes or trying to dodge them.
3) But, over the past few years, the city has begun a new era of development with more paved roads. And now the busiest stretch of highway within city limits is under serious construction. This is not your average cement paved road. This is the real thing.
4) Hot mix, lanes, signsâ€¦ the kind of road organization we usually only see when we are in Chetumal. But while the end result is promising, the process can be tiresome for drivers, and most of us in the city drive through the ongoing construction every day and ask, "Are they done yet?""
Sahar Vasquez, reporter
"What can you tell us about the construction on the northern highway? What portion of it is done and what portion of it still needs to be completed?"
Arsenio Burgos, Cisco Construction Limited
"Ok um the road is divided into two components one they call section A and the other one is knows as Section A and the other is known as section B. Section A is from the Halouver Bridge to the airport road."
"The section B is from the international sorry, is from the Buttonwood bay round about to about 400meters Halouver Bridge."
Done with one section but what about the next section that is in within city limits?
"Section B has started. It is a 24-month project. It involves not just road project but it involves placing an 18-inch water line and 14-inch water line on either side of the road and that is really where that is the critical path. That is what is determining our speed."
Sahar Vasquez, reporter
"You said this is a 24-month project this one you are doing here. How will it affect the businesses that have work on that side? How will people get to the businesses? You know putting in the pipes you have to dig up a lot."
"Um so far we hope we haven't interfered too much because we have provided accesses to each location, um as we go along we've been providing access to businesses for example if you go to Mirab you will find that we put our culvert into Mirab. So that they don't have any interference with their businesses. We are doing that a bit more with the commercial not so much with the residential because the residential are a little bit harder but on the commercials, we are going to be putting their culvert in front of their drive ways before we do anything else."
"Minimize it to maybe 2-3 day so interference and after that what will be interfered with are the daily works, but we try to minimize it."
Sahar Vasquez, reporter
"The traffic that we see on the highway and now that school is starting do you think this will be a bit of a burden for people or it is worth the burden?"
"Uh, we are following the same time schedule that we did on a section and in other words, we are not starting before 8. You see the teams out there but we don't start works until after 8 and basically we are done by about a quarter to five again we are trying not to interfere with the commuting."
"We are constructing a road and I think the commuters need to appreciate that we are constructing a road and they need to provide an extra 5 or ten mins. My understanding, however, is that section A has provided them with that ten minutes extra because it is now faster and better but there will be construction and like I said we just started so it will be there for the next year."
Section A delivered two lanes like we are accustomed to but wider. Section B has even greater promise.
"The good parts is that what we have engineered in this is what you see is the safety. You see the road much wider um it is a little bit straighter not much but a little bit straighter. It also has your super elevations so that in effect your no longer driving on a flat road but it has the supers on the curves which makes it a little easier It's lit at night so you have all of those."
"The other factor that you're not seeing is the fact that we have raised the road about 18 inches which the government and the financial agencies are insisting that road now has to have two critical components. Road safety which is what I have just described and climate resilience. By raising the road up 18 inches or more."
"The con seems to be that people believe now that what we have now between Halouver and international is a super highway. It isn't folks. We have had a lot of accidents and a lot of it has been due to extremely fast driving."
"There should be no reason why you running into light poles. The road is lit so there is no reason to be running off the road but we do have these accidents."
"So let me try and explain what will happen between Buttonwood Bay and Chetumal Street round about what we will have is a 6 lane highway um with divider. There is going to be a median in between. The idea of safety, by the way, is that you never make a left-hand turn and that's the idea of a median."
"Now that is going to create some inconvenience for your present commuters in that there used to make left-hand turns you will not be able to make left-hand turns you will have to go to the roundabout and make your left-hand turn there and then come back, but it's the divider the median if you want to put it this way, is democratic. Um you want to go on the other side you have made your left hand turn each way wherever you go."
"You are going to have to plan. What will happen there you will have what the outside world calls commuter lanes are gonna be a third lane and that is gonna be divided as well and we are calling it bus lanes;. That is where the bus lanes ought to go. That is where you are also providing for some parking but not like parking you now see on the road that is haphazard."
"That is one profile that is probably the area that also is going to affect most people because that is where you have quite a bit of street that head to the sea. If you're coming from the northern highway you won't be able to make a left hand turn into any of these streets. For example, if you are going to divine mercy church from the northern you will have to come all the way north turn on Buttonwood Bay and get in the commuter lane so you know exactly where you're going and the same will apply for all the streets on that side. So that side also has a concrete drain sidewalk. Very wide piece. Between Chetumal Street and um new horizon, recall that new horizon at Mahieas you have a canal that has been dug and put in. Between Chetumal Street and that culvert, it is about another kilometer. What you will have is a divided highway. Two lanes on each side, so it is going to be a 4-lane and it will have side drains, sidewalks."
In 2015, CISCO construction signed a contract for a 13.6 million dollar upgrade of the Phillip Goldson Highway. The project is funded by the CDB.