The proposed construction of the Boca del Rio bridge to connect North and South Ambergris Caye was again discussed during a "closed" meeting between the Area Representative, the Mayor, San Pedro Town Council representatives and a panel of community members last week. Members of local government reiterated that the bridge project is strictly in its preliminary phase. It was stated that once the design and plans are completed, they will be published in the local newspaper for public knowledge.
According to officials present at the meeting, the bridge itself does not yet exist, but a bridge 11-foot wide with a clearance of seven feet is planned. The proposed height of the bridge raised concerns over the size restrictions of boats able to pass under it, if it is not designed to open.
Addressing other issues brought to the meeting, residents were assured of local government's intentions: 1) The road north is to be completed, located west of the existing resorts and not on the beachfront. 2) Except for "service" vehicles (used by local utility companies) or "permitted" vehicles, only "golf cart-sized" vehicles will be allowed to cross. Also, taxis as well as private cars and trucks would not be allowed access. (It was not made clear what would constitute a "permitted" vehicle or who would make the decision to "permit" these vehicles.) 3) The bridge would be a "toll bridge," to be closed at midnight, with a 24-hour presence (security) maintained.
In the May 28th edition of The San Pedro Sun, Mayor Alberto Nuñez stated that the Government of Belize had supposedly purchased several "Bascule" drawbridges from Spain and that San Pedro Town would receive the first one. The mayor felt it was in the town's best financial interest to accept one of these. However, in an interview with the mayor on Tuesday, he explained this deal "fell through" and now it is up to Ministry of Works to come up with plans for the bridge's design based on recent feasibility studies and structural surveys conducted. It was confirmed with the Ministry of Works on Tuesday that these preliminary surveys were conducted but that no plans or designs have been submitted. Checking with the Department of Environment it was learned that "environmental clearance" had already been given for the Boca del Rio bridge project, but it could not be confirmed what bridge plan this clearance was based on.
When questioned why the bridge was needed, the mayor stated that the ferry was becoming a burden on the council. He explained that many people do not understand the challenges associated with the ferry, such as financial losses, employee problems, vandalism, maintaining the access sites and the cost of damages incurred during use.
Regarding the destruction of habitat, and the value of the fishing and tourism potential of the wetlands, it was stated there will be an "environmental study" done on the effects of the bridge and the two subdivision developments. According to the area representative, one development is the San Mateo subdivision west of El Pescador and Captain Morgan's, and the other, Ambergris Bay located west of Captain Morgan's and Journey's End. The San Mateo information came as a surprise to attendees, as this subdivision was put "on hold" by Prime Minister Said Musa years ago as stated in the minutes of a November 23rd, 2000 meeting of the Belize Barrier Reef Committee.
Following up on this statement, The San Pedro Sun learned that the land referred to as San Mateo belongs to the San Pedro Town Council and will not be subdivided. The area is being surveyed and current plans are to sell it by the acre.
In response to concerns regarding rising crime and the lack of infrastructure, the area representative reportedly relayed plans for a "police sub-station," a "small fire truck" to serve the northern community, and a possible "landfill" for trash and garbage. Further information received revealed that the "small fire truck" would consist of a portable fire pump that would fit on a "gator or mule-type" vehicle.
The bridge issue concluded with promises, much like other discussions regarding this issue. It was stated that after the environmental studies are completed, "there will be a public hearing for public comment."
The proposed Boca del Rio bridge project is reportedly being funded by the Ministry of Works and according to the mayor, construction should begin in September.