The John Smith Road formerly known as the Airport Link Road was officially opened this morning. The small ceremony had the presence of Government officials and the Taiwan’s Ambassador to Belize, Remus Li-Kuo Chen. John Smith was the first leader of the People’s United Party and one of the founders of Belize’s Nationalist Movement. Minister of Education, Youths, Sports and Culture, Patrick Faber explained why the name, John Smith Road.
Hon. Patrick Faber, Party Leader Elect, United Democratic Party: “Many have been asking “Well who is John Smith?” and I think that question alone coming from so many right now serves the purpose for which we are putting his name on it. Many Belizeans don’t know and should know who he was. John Smith was one of our nationalist movement leaders and in fact he headed the People’s Committee from 1948. Belizeans will remember the People’s Committee from their agitation around the time of the devaluation in December 1945 and that People’s Committee would later join force with the Labor Movement and agree to form a political party that became the first political party in Belize the People’s United Party. And so John Smith became the first leader of the People’s United Party and occupied that position I think for maybe a year or two after which he quarreled with them and broke ranks. But his contributions have been many over time. He was a member of the Belize City Council, he was a Mayor of Belize City, he was a legislator as well in the local assembly for a good many years I think about six or so years so he is somebody who has certainly contributed greatly to our development in Belize and for us in the Government and particularly for me as Minister of Culture and Minister of Education We do need to honor those who have contributed so greatly and John Smith was one such person.”
According to the Minister of Works Rene Montero the road has been under construction for approximately two years and has been built to international standards.
Rene Montero, Minister of Works: “This road started about two years ago and it was funded by the OPEC International Fund for Development and also supported by funds from the Taiwanese mission. This road took about approximately two years to complete and it is a road that will link two major highways, it will link the George Price Highway and also it will link the Philip Goldson Highway. It has all the safety features and it is built to international standard. This road cost approximately $33 million dollars and it was constructed by Cisco Construction Limited and this highway is very important because it will create opportunities in agriculture, residential areas and also for commercial purposes and also it will reduce the travel time; if you are coming from abroad travelling south it will really reduce time, it will be very accessible and also if you’re travelling north it will also like as I mentioned to you it will link two major highways the George Price Highway and the Philip Goldson International Highway. This road is built to international standard and we are very happy and pleased to be honored here with the presence of the Ambassador from Taiwan who has always been supportive to Belize, he’s a friend to Belize and this just signifies the importance of the linkage we have with the country of Taiwan.”
The entire road meanders through low-lying swamp and crosses the Belize River. We spoke with the CEO of CISCO construction LTD, Francis Woods who told us about the challenges they faced during construction.
Francis Woods, Cisco Construction: “Our company is very proud to hand over to the Government of Belize and the people of Belize another project that was successfully completed in time, within budget, actually we had a million dollars in savings. The project itself did go through virgin territory a lot of swamps. The engineers on this particular project NARCO Group really paid attention to the swampy areas and they put a lot of heavy rock fill in those areas to minimize any settlement in those areas. They pre-loaded it, they forced it to settle then they came up with the layers of road. We expect in a very bad flood situation there are two lower areas that they designed with concrete spillways so that if the water does come across the road it will go over those concrete areas so a lot of smart engineering was done on behalf of the Ministry of Works engineers and the NARCO that was there and that’s a result why we’re able to come up with a lot of savings too it was good engineering problems that they saw they solved and they came up with very efficient ways to build the road versus the original design.”
The John Smith Road was funded by the OPEC fund for international development and the Republic of China (Taiwan). The 5-mile road links the Philip Goldson Highway and the George Price Highway. The Government has listed the benefits of the project to include reduced travel time; vehicle operating cost savings; and increased access to adjacent lands that could be used for agriculture, residential and commercial enterprises.