Disaster waiting to happen - St Thomas residents plead for bridge to be repaired
With their fates resting on the two pieces of wood that serve as the only support for the Cod Pen Bridge in Llandewey in St Thomas, residents are once again appealing to the National Works Agency (NWA) and the Government to honour their promise to fix the bridge.
The frustrated residents blocked the narrow area on Wednesday with an old fridge and tree trunks, which they also set on fire, forcing a build-up of traffic on both sides of the small bridge.
Taxi operator and resident George told THE WEEKEND STAR that community members last year made temporary repairs to the concrete structure, which is the main thoroughfare connecting the communities of Llandewey, Ramble and Cedar Valley.
But he said that the hole in the bridge quickly reappeared, and he fears it will soon collapse.
“The last time the man dem block it, the NWA people come and promise that they are going to fix it. They even start to cut out the side and say they are going to put a Bailey bridge, and them don’t do anything all now. Dem just leave it so,” he said, adding that things are getting worse.
Speaking on the event that sparked Wednesday’s protest, George said that people were sitting nearby when they noticed a crackling sound while a car was driving over the bridge.
According to him, “Them seh dem hear the bridge mek a ‘pum’ sound like something a bruck. No iron nuh hold it up, enuh, a just two piece a stick, and mi not even did know till today that a just dem two piece a stick deh hold up we life, and we a go back and forth every day on it, and big trucks still driving on it. What dem waiting on to come fix it? A tragedy? Somebody have to die first?”
The state of the Cod Pen Bridge was brought up just last week during the monthly meeting of the St Thomas Municipal Corporation.
A letter from the NWA was read, which said that no money was available to tackle the long-standing issue. This is despite its statement last year that the bridge was being treated as an emergency.
Further reports from the agency stated that designs for a new structure to replace the bridge were completed last year.
The report mentioned that a bill of quantities was being generated to construct a triple-cell box culvert at the site with a view to implement the works as soon as funding becomes available.
The creation of a detour parallel to the structure was also said to be dependent on the availability of funding, which is being sought.
However, councillor for the Cedar Valley Division, Marsha Francis, described the contents of the report as unacceptable.
“I have a problem with the “availability of funds” statement. I use that bridge probably three or four times per week to get to my division, and there is a big hole in the middle of it that is only getting worse,” she said. “In my opinion, this is an emergency. What should we do? Wait until funds become available? There should be funds available for emergencies, so it’s unacceptable. In this parish, we all have to be waiting and waiting for everything, and we can’t accept that.”