Thursday, June 20, 2024

Boca del Rio Bridge officially opened

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The festivities of this year’s Dia de San Pedro saw the blessing and formal inauguration of the newly renovated Boca del Rio bridge connecting San Pedro Town with northern Ambergris Caye. On Thursday, June 29th, a ceremony was held next to the bridge, officially unveiling the structure whose reconstruction started in December 2021.
The event coincided with the island’s traditional Dia de San Pedro celebrations, which saw the blessing of the bridge just after 6AM on Thursday during the annual boat procession. A host of guests attended the formalities. These included Prime Minister Honourable Dr. John Briceño along with Minister of Local Government Honourable Oscar Requena, Minister of Transports Honourable Rodwell Ferguson, Caye Caulker Chairlady Seleny Villanueva-Pott, Miss San Pedro Faith Edgar, and other government officials who accompanied Mayor Gualberto ‘Wally’ Nuñez and Area Representative Honourable Andre Perez in the head table.
The formalities were presided over by Daisy Flores from the San Pedro Town Council (SPTC), and just after 2PM, Father Eduardo Montemayor from the San Pedro Roman Catholic Church delivered the event’s invocation. The Honourable Andre Perez then addressed the guests commending the SPTC for their efforts to improve the island’s infrastructure. He said that Belize Rural South (BRS) (Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker) could expect further improvement to their infrastructure and new projects to better the life of BRS residents.
Minister Requena added that his ministry takes pride in working with local governments, and San Pedro, as a fast-growing community, can always count on his support. Mayor Nuñez thanked the Central Government for their support and explained how difficult it was for his administration when they took office in 2021. Nuñez recalled that the SPTC was in a dire financial status, and to add to their problems, the original Sir Barry Bowen wooden bridge was on the brink of collapse. He said against the odds and with the support of his team, they managed to secure funds through a loan and addressed the issue. “As we formally reconnect the north and south of the island, we wish it stands as a symbol of unification,” said Nuñez. “In the early days of San Pedro, it was a long time before we had a bridge. A structure built without considering the town’s growth and the possibility of its increasing demand.” He said the new concrete bridge is sturdier, well-built, and expected to last for years. However, the Mayor did not offer any report about the cost of the bridge.
A breakdown was not offered on the expenses incurred during the bridge’s construction, except for its final cost. According to Nuñez, a total of $5.2 million was invested in demolishing the old bridge and constructing the now concrete two-lane structure. Initially, the project’s cost was set at $2 million. Months later, the Mayor mentioned in an interview that they would need an additional $3 million to complete the bridge due to added features to assure safety. A full report on the final cost of the bridge reconstruction was to be shared during the inauguration formalities.

The financing of the new bridge is through a loan, and the SPTC says that it’s being paid through the toll motorists need to pay. Those with private vehicles are exempt from the toll, while golf cart rentals, owners of large cars, cargo trucks, delivery trucks, taxis, and transfer vans must pay. The toll can be paid when accessing the bridge, or a monthly pass can be purchased, which is more economical.
While islanders welcomed the upgrade to the bridge, many of them, particularly tour operators, complained about the bridge’s height. The Mayor said he became aware of the complaints and instructed the contractor to ensure the bridge did not go lower. Although boats can traverse under the bridge, others say it can be difficult for larger vessels during high tide.
Toward the end of the event, Prime Minister Briceño emphasized that his government was about the people. Since Ambergris Caye is the mecca of tourism in the country, further attention will be given to the island. Apart from infrastructural projects like building bridges and cementing streets in San Pedro, the prime minister stated that sustainable development is being structured for north Ambergris Caye as development continues. He said this plan will be presented to the island residents when ready. Prime Minister Briceño congratulated the SPTC and continued offering San Pedranos his assistance through Area Representative Perez.

Before the ribbon-cutting portion of the event, there were cultural presentations from the Mestizo and Garifuna cultures. Afterward, the official ribbon cutting and a walk on the bridge occurred. The turquoise-painted two-lane bridge is equipped with lighting and wider railings, and a green touch was added by planting local plants on wooden flowerpots erected between the lanes.

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