A contract was signed this morning for the construction of the new San Ignacio/Santa Elena/ bridge. The contract was awarded to Cisco contraction and both the Minister of Works, Rene Montero and his Chief Executive Office, Errol Gentle, say that this latest project will great benefit the people of the twin towns.
Errol Gentle – CEO, Ministry of Works
“This has been long in waiting. I am certain that the residents of Santa Elena and San Ignacio and even all Belizeans who travel to that beautiful part of the country will be excited, will be elated to know that very soon we will have this bridge being constructed. This project is funded by the government of Belize and the Caribbean development bank and it’s at a cost of $19,961,575.16 that is in Belize dollars and the contract will be signed this morning by the government of Belize represented by the Ministry of Works the Honorable Minister and myself the CEO and CISCO construction company limited represented by Mr. John Woods and Mr. Arsenio Burgos. The importance of this bridge is that it offers a lot of safety features because we have the big cement trucks coming from Guatemala we have the movement of other containers from Puerto Barrios that come through San Ignacio they would no longer be able to pass through the center of the town so they will pass through this bridge so it’s very important in terms of safety features and also in terms of the movement of vehicles. If you notice on weekend there is a lot of congestion in San Ignacio because of the movement of vehicles so in a way we are getting like the US from peak hours from here to San Ignacio it’s almost bumper to bumper so that will ease it. I would like to congratulate Mr. John Woods and his company in bidding and being successful in this project.”
New bridge in Santa Elena and San Ignacio nearing completion
Ever since the Hawkesworth Bridge, a one lane suspension bridge was built and imported from Middlesbrough, England , in 1949 , it has served as the main river crossing over the Macal River linking San Ignacio to it’s sister-town Santa Elena. It is currently the only drivable suspension bridge in Belize. There is also a wooden bridge further down stream that had been built as a temporary bridge to ease the flow of traffic from crossing the aging Hawkesworth Bridge. As time went by the Wooden Bridge that has now, become known as the LOW-LYING BRIDGE, has become a permanent crossing and is being used for the westward traffic heading into San Ignacio and further west. While the traffic heading east out of San Ignacio use the Hawkesworth Bridge.
There has been one problem with that arrangement though, the area where the Low-Lying Bridge is located, has been known to suffer from severe flooding episodes and crossing then becomes impossible for extended periods. When that happens, like recently when it was destroyed by the ravages of hurricane Earl in August of this year, the Hawkesworth reverted to becoming the only crossing. The traffic is slowed down because crossing from either side is then down to intervals. It is then left to the government to spend huge sums of monies to do the necessary repair works to make the wooden structure useable again. The latest repairs cost around $150,000. So back in October 2012, when government announced that it would be building a new, larger bridge to span 154 meters across the Macal River, that would link Santa Elena and San Ignacio the news was well received.
The Government of Belize secured a Loan from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) for what was being dubbed as, the Fourth Road Project (Santa Elena / San Ignacio Bypass) that was to be implemented in the Cayo District. This project was divided into four phases (Lots): the upgrading of Loma Luz Boulevard; the aforementioned new bridge crossing over the Macal River; the construction of a new high-embankment by-pass; and the rehabilitation of Joseph Andrews Drive to the point where it re-connects with the Western Highway. Lot #1 of this project involved the upgrading of Loma Luz Boulevard for approximately 1 (one) mile to its intersection with Trapiche Road, which is the point along the Macal River where a high-level bridge crossing is being constructed. Also included in the scope of works was the construction of a large diameter roundabout at the Loma Luz Boulevard / Western Highway Junction.
The Government of Belize, through the Ministry of Works announced, the signing of a construction contract to carry out Lot#1 of this project, the Upgrading of Loma Luz Boulevard. That signing took place at the Ministry of Works on Thursday April 26, 2012, at 10:00am, between the Minister of Works and the successful bidder CISCO Construction Ltd. As was anticipated the works commence immediately. And as Cisco had by then become noted for, they made a commitment to make the project as LABOUR INTENSIVE AS POSSIBLE, in order to provide much needed employment for residents of the area. Engineering and supervision for this project has been and continues to be provided by Halcrow Group Ltd., with local liaison provided by the Project Execution Unit, an arm of the Ministry of Works.
As we reported in our 2nd July 2015 issue, the actual contract , was signed three days earlier , on 29th June , on the Monday morning of that same week in Belmopan for the building of a new San Ignacio and Santa Elena bridge. That contract for the new bridge had also been awarded to Cisco construction. That came after the aforementioned had done extensive preparatory work in both San Ignacio and Santa Elena, with only the works to be done to the road tributaries that approach to the future bridge left .The contract was signed by the Hon. Rene Montero, Minister of Works and Transport with John Woods, the CISCO construction company representative. Also present for the signing was Errol Gentle, the Chief Executive Officer within the Ministry of Works. The new bridge at a cost of $ 19,961,575.16 was being made possible as a result of joint funding by the Government of Belize and the Caribbean Development Bank , and formed a part of the aforementioned BYEPASS Project.
When completed, the San Ignacio and Santa Elena Bridge will facilitate the movement of heavy duty vehicles, coming with heavy cargo from such diverse places as Guatemala and Mexico. As it now stands, the passing of big cement trucks through San Ignacio, for example, is considered a safety concern. The new bridge will allay those fears and decrease the traffic congestion that now occurs in downtown San Ignacio; especially on weekends. Today as we speak that spanking NEW BRIDGE is well underway of being completed in time for the Hurricane season and what is considered our rainy season. With that said this last congestion caused by the washing away of the wooden bridge will be a thing of the past for those of us who need or wish to cross the Macal River, because of the New Modern Bridge that’s being built as an all weather bridge.
Will Government Pay Landowner for Occupation by Bridge?
The new bridge across the Macal River in San Ignacio is almost complete. It will be temporarily opened to vehicular traffic this week and then closed for final touches before a historic gala opening that is planned by the Ministry of Works. But for one landowner in the area, there’s nothing to celebrate. Felix Castillo, who owns parcels 2771 and 2772, is relying on Government’s valuation of the property to be worth as much as eight point three million dollars. But in 2013, the Ministry of Works offered just over three hundred thousand dollars as compensation – an offer Castillo summarily rejected. Four years later, there has been no settlement and the quarry that Castillo has operated in the area for twenty years has been shut down, costing him his livelihood. Castillo’s Attorney, Bryan Neal, gave us a short history of the matter this afternoon.
Bryan Neal, Attorney for Felix Castillo
“My client is the owner of the land. The Government announced, way back, that they were building a bridge to move the substitute bridge in San Ignacio and Santa Elena and build a wonderful bridge; a bridge is there now. The bridge is about to be opened, but the problem is that the bridge was built over land that my client owns. Now, back in 2013 I believe, they had offered three hundred thousand dollars or thereabouts as compensation which we rejected, we still reject, because the land has been valued by Ministry of Works people at between seven point five and eight point three million dollars; so how can you pay a man three hundred thousand for a land which is valued, at the lowest, at seven point five million?”
“And the argument is that there is, according to the Ministry, a set price at which the Government pays compensation for land of that sort, because I understand that the land is being used as a quarry, that people excavate stone and so on from there to use in construction operations.”
“My client has been doing that for over twenty years. The Ministry can say what they want – the Constitution says that you must – if the Government acquires property for a public purpose, they must compensate you at market value. We are saying now that you are about to open your bridge and cut your ribbon – sit down with the landowners whose land over which you have built your wonderful bridge and settle the matter of compensation; I don’t think that is so unreasonable. When you look at the fact that in the last ten years they have spent over seventy million dollars in compensation, how can they not compensate Mr. Castillo for the land [on which they have] built this bridge?”
Paul Powton Photography created a couple of videos for the Ministry of Works highlighting the construction and completion of the new Macal River Bridge. At around 2:30, the drone captures Santa Elena and San Ignacio, along with both of the other bridges, from a few 100 meters above the bridge, and it really puts things in perspective. The second video is after completion.
Macal River Bridge San Ignacio Bypass
Belize's largest & most impressive bridge under construction
Macal River Bridge San Ignacio Pt 2
Hawkesworth II at Sunset
Crossing the new Cayo bridge. Video of driving across the bridge with a wicked soundtrack!
#528640 - 01/30/1812:34 PMRe: New bridge for San Ignacio/Santa Elena