Motorists and pedestrians using the bridge at the western end of Howard Cooke Boulevard in Montego Bay, face “a dangerous environment,” according to Councillor and Senator Charles Sinclair.
In light of the refusal of the National Works Agency (NWA) to attend meetings of the St. James Municipal Corporation, Senator Sinclair took the route of a resolution at last Thursday’s council meeting to bring the problem to the Agency’s attention. In presenting it, he prefaced that “if they came and would interface with us, I think we would have been able to have this discussion.”
The resolution noted that the bridge, which spans the Barnett River, was “a critical component of the main road” and in need of repairs as “over the past ten years the rubberized surface material on the said bridge has been severely degraded and eroded, exposing the metal surface and creating a dangerous environment to the motor and pedestrian traffic traversing the said bridge.”
Sinclair pointed out that it was the duty of the Chief Technical Director (at the NWA) to manage and repair roads and bridges attached to them. Therefore the municipal corporation was calling upon the officer “to conduct an urgent assessment of the state of the said bridge and implement the needed repairs there to guarantee a safe environment for the motoring and pedestrian traffic.”
He is further asking that the assessment and timeline for repairs be shared with the municipal corporation.
The senator drew attention to information that the Government had earmarked $1.3 billion to repair several bridges but that the Howard Cooke Bridge was not among them. Senator Sinclair spoke of a personal experience of him driving very slowly on the bridge earlier this year at a time when there was a slight rainfall “and when I got unto this bridge my car went from side to side, slipping on the metal surface.” He said other persons had told him of having similar experiences and also of accidents as a consequence of the problem on the bridge.
In addition to its heavy usage by motorcars, trucks, and buses, there is a constant movement of pedestrians, including students, tourists, and persons exercising.
MAJOR TRAFFIC LOAD
Senator Sinclair did not say it, but the bridge falls within segment one of the North Coast Highway, which runs from Montego Bay to Negril and which needs intervention from the government. Constructed in 2001, the roadway has a design life of 15 years. It has now been in use for 23 years bearing the major traffic load that commutes within and through the city.
Now classified as a “white road”, meaning that it is highly accident prone, and while the base and sub-base are said to be still solid, it is past due that the road should be resurfaced.
The problem identified by Cllr. Sinclair comes against the background of the NWA having to correct a section of the road that was sinking near to the bride now under review, twice repairing another of the bridges on the boulevard in 2022, as expansion joints along a section had been compromised, posing a danger to motorists.
While acknowledging publicly that the expansion joints on the bridge had become defective and “requiring immediate repairs,” it took some two years after it was first brought to public attention for the joints to be replaced. Repairs included demolition and reconstruction of the concrete abutment to the bridge, as well as the removal and replacement of the defective expansion joints.
More recently, the Works Agency had to resurface most of the eastbound corridor along the AGS Coombs section of the highway.
The first segment of Highway 2000 was constructed by the Korean firm Bosung Engineering under a wave of controversy and industrial disputes.