For 4 terms, the UDP City Councils did nothing; Mayor Bernard Wagner will approach central government for help in repairing the 95-year-old bridge

[Linked Image] The year 2024 will mark 100 years since the Belize City Swing Bridge was built to link the old capital’s north and south sides. As that milestone approaches, however, the only manual swing bridge in the world is in a most deplorable condition. An obvious testament to the years of neglect is the visible corrosion and the decaying of the metal structure.

Since Belize has adopted tourism as a large part of its economic and developmental future, the Swing Bridge, which has tremendous tourism potential and has received the attention of Trip Advisor, the international tourism industry’s influential trend-setter, strategic planning could have included a massive restoration project for the Swing Bridge in the Downtown Rejuvenation Project, which involves the spending of millions of dollars for the restoration of the downtown area.

Four consecutive terms (12 years) of United Democratic Party city councils, under the leaderships of Mayors Zenaida Moya and Darrell Bradley, saw nothing done about the continuing deterioration of the Swing Bridge.

Despite Mayor Bradley’s focus on the use of the waterways of the city as tourism earners, restoration of the Swing Bridge was not a part of his narrative.

Although infrastructural development has loomed large on our government’s tourism agenda, the Swing Bridge was never factored in those plans. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent and have been budgeted to meet the government’s objective of transforming the country’s infrastructure, but the Belize City Council has been left to maintain the Swing Bridge with its limited resources. This has resulted in cosmetic, short-term repairs.

The present PUP City Council, under the leadership of Mayor Bernard Wagner, has inherited the problem of trying to keep the ancient bridge usable. On the northern side of the bridge there are large, missing covers on the pedestrian walkways, and from end to end of the walkways, the iron is so corroded it looks like the whole thing is in danger of falling into the Haulover Creek below.

In a telephone interview with Mayor Wagner on Monday, we asked him what his council intends to do about the deteriorating condition of the Swing Bridge.

“That Swing Bridge has been deteriorating for the past 10 to 15 years and we are aware that some cosmetic work was done on it by the previous city council. The bridge continues to deteriorate at a very fast pace,” Mayor Wagner said.

Mayor Wagner said that they had instructed their City Engineer and City Planner to provide them with a report on the state of the bridge, and last week they received the report and it indicated that the bridge was in a very poor state.

Mayor Wagner said that to take on the Swing Bridge would be “a very huge project”, given the council’s resources, but that they would attempt some of the short-term repairs. He said, however, that they have to think long-term, and in that regard, they would be requesting a meeting with the Ministry of Works.

Mayor Wagner explained that the Swing Bridge falls under the City Council, but the Council does not have the financial resources to take on the project. “We will need some sort of collaboration with government and with international donors,” he said.