Swing Bridge On Its Last Leg
7News has received a copy of an internal report from the Ministry of Infrastructure Development and Housing, which details a thorough under-deck inspection of all the bridges in Belize City.
And the professionals from the Ministry's Project Execution Unit are signaling their concern that these bridges are in a severe state of disrepair. Persons who have seen these photographs are horrified at the state of the Swing Bridge and the Belcan Bridge, and they are concerned that they could give way in the near future and threaten the lives of motorists.
On the Swing Bridge, the professionals recommend replacement. They say quote, "With the age of 100 years, the bridge structure is at the end of its natural service life and should be replaced. Even though there is not a complete failure or collapse, the structural members have deteriorated to the point that they are no longer able to safely sustain their design loading. It is recommended that all heavy traffic, including public bus transportation, cease using this bridge structure..." End quote.
They also recommend that the BelCan bridge should be repaired, and several parts should be replaced.
They say, "The Bel Can superstructure and abutments are in fair condition. Routine maintenance to these elements will keep them in good working order. The center foundation supporting the double cantilever swinging two center spans is in fair to good condition. Routine maintenance in the form of cleaning, sandblasting and painting would ensure structural integrity is maintained. The two intermediate center piers have failed and are unrepairable; they must be replaced. It is likely that the concrete used in their construction was not of the best quality. One of the piers may, at some point, have sustained the collision of an object. Nevertheless, if the two piers are not replaced, a complete failure may occur, in which the integrity of the superstructure and deck surface may be compromised."
For the BelChina bridge, the project execution team recommends periodic and routine maintenance. They say that structurally, this bridge is in good shape. Regular maintenance in the demolition and replacement of the wooden crash barriers and erosion protection works to the north abutment will safeguard the foundation elements.
Two months ago, the topic came up in our conversation with the Infrastructure Development Minister, Julius Espat, and here's what he had to say:
Julius Espat - PUP Area Rep., Cayo South
"We did some engineering analysis of the Swing Bridge, and I did - I specifically told the engineers to take a boat and go under the Bel China to do an analysis and to go under the Belcan Bridge. The three reports came in. Swing Bridge has to be replaced. But, because of the work that was recently done, it prolongs the life a little bit more. The one that worries me is the Belcan. The Belcan Bridge is in a state of disrepair that only if you go under the bridge will you understand. So, I went, and I am seeking financing. I think we are very close to obtaining financing to replace both the Swing Bridge and the Belcan Bridge because if not, somebody will get hurt, and we don't want that."
We understand that a portion of tomorrow's supplementary appropriation bill will include funding to conduct feasibility studies on the two bridges that are most damaged from wear and tear.