Last weekend, four persons died in two separate traffic incidents that happened at the bridge located between miles 31 and 32 on the Hummingbird Highway, in the vicinity of Saint Margaret’s Village. The incidents have stirred concern over the safety of the bridge, a one-lane crossing. Today, we spoke with the CEO in the Ministry of Works, Errol Gentle who said that while the Ministry is currently reassessing the safety measures in the area, they have been working along the highway to improve the entire stretch as part of a project that had begun about two years back.
CEO Errol Gentle – Ministry of Works
“I felt extremely bad about it but I also think that we need to be very careful as drivers. The bridge in question that has been there over 70 years and whilst I understand the cost of the accident and I understand that yes there is a need for more security measures out there we have the buses going along the highway every single day for over 10 years. We have the tankers who have been driving along that highway, we have the eighteen wheelers that have been going along the highway as well. We know it a one-lane bridge and it is obvious that either you’re distracted or you don’t know the road. Now because of the accident, and regrettably we had the accidents we decided to put in some temporary measures because as you may know the plan is to upgrade that entire stretch of highway and all those one-lane bridges will be changed, those will be replaced with proper two-lane bridges. We are improving the signage, putting the signs further out that should be out there. Again because of the highway just being worked on and rehabilitated the initial signs were not there, we have some signs that were knocked down those are being replaced but we are putting safety barriers on both approaches but those are only temporary measures because that bridge will be replaced. This is a part of the Hummingbird Rehabilitation Project where we are doing all the way from Belmopan to Dangriga and all the one-way bridges will be replaced. One section has been completed already the second section is underway but remember are doing the road work first. The middle section will be done and then simultaneously we start replacing the bridges. One bridge replaced so far I think its six or seven bridges that we will be replacing. That started I think two or three years ago and that is being funded by the Government of Belize and the Kuwait Government.”
According to Gentle, the project will be completed in about two more years. And while Gentle says that he was horrified at the news of the tragedy over the weekend, the families of deceased say the condition of the road contributed to the accident. He disagrees.
CEO Errol Gentle – Ministry of Works
“I have to defer with that and I don’t want to go into any specifics because I’m certain that the police are doing their own investigation but I went out and I’m certain you went out as well and the first accident coming from the area of Dangriga I saw exactly where the vehicle started running in the gravel and that was before the bridge and also the second one I saw where the brakes marks were and that again was before the bridge so if it was a two lane bridge then there wouldn’t have been accident because the bridge would have been wide enough but it’s a one lane bridge so you will drive considering that there is a one lane bridge and you won’t be coming too fast you have to be slowing down even before you get to the bridge. So while, I am a human and I have a heart and I sympathize with the families, but the bridge did not cause the accident people caused accidents, roads and bridges don’t cause accidents. Now if they went on the bridge and the bridge broke in I would have taken full responsibility, the Ministry of Works, the Government of Belize.”