Imagine having to traverse through a riverbed to get to and from your community on a daily basis, or travel for miles using the alternative route when it becomes impassable.
That was the reality for hundreds of residents in several communities in North East St. Catherine, when the Dover Castle main road was left impassable following the collapse of a bridge during Tropical Storm Nicole in 2010.
The collapsed bridge meant that motorists had to drive through an orange grove to get to the communities of Redwood and Guys Hill.
With the Government’s recent construction of a $23.3 million Bailey bridge, the residents’ lives have been significantly changed and they now have easier access to their homes.
The single lane bridge, which was officially opened last week, replaces the structure that collapsed two years ago. It serves the communities of Dover Castle, Redwood, Jubilee Town, Golden Grove, Guys Hill and adjoining areas.
Speaking to JIS News, resident Devon Morris, says he is extremely grateful. “What dem do today was nice and joyful. Dem see to it that we get a bridge so everything will be alright, we can drive through comfortable,” he says.
He adds that without the bridge, “we have a hard time with people coming into the district”.
Joined by several other beneficiaries, Mr. Morris thanked the Government and National Works Agency (NWA), for the new bridge.
Speaking to JIS News during the official opening, Minister of State in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, Hon. Richard Azan, said the project, which got underway in January this year, was completed within schedule and budget.
Works included the construction of gabion baskets; bridge abutments; a rubble retaining wall and approach roads.
The State Minister urged operators of heavy duty vehicles to use alternative routes at John’s Pen and Berkshire Hall, as the structure has a carrying capacity of only 50 tonnes.
Meanwhile, NWA Communications Manager, Stephen Shaw, says warning signs will be erected shortly to advise motorists of the limited carrying capacity.
“Being a 50-tonne structure, we don’t expect to see a trailer going across this bridge because it is not built to accommodate those types of units,” he tells JIS News.
Mr. Shaw is urging residents to assist in keeping the structure in place and to ensure that it is not compromised by misuse.
“What we would also be appealing to residents to do, is assist us in keeping this very vital piece of infrastructure in place. They are the ones who have been suffering since Tropical Storm Nicole in 2010, when they had to be walking in the river bed, climbing out and then finding their way beyond this point. So they have an interest in ensuring that the bridge stays in place and is not compromised in any way by misuse,” he says.
Member of Parliament for North East St. Catherine, Gregory Mair, commended the Government for undertaking the project.
“This is a process that was initiated all the way back from 2010 and the present Government made it their business to see it come to its completion. I am very happy for the people in the surrounding areas; finally we got the bridge done. So I think it’s a relief and I am extremely appreciative for the construction of this bridge,” he said.
Other works under the project included: river training works 50 metres upstream and 50 metres downstream; realignment of the roadway; and the raising and re-paving of the roadway with asphaltic concrete.
The contractor for the project was Aegisco Limited.
By Chris Patterson, JIS Reporter