Residents of St Andrew and St Joseph and their aspiring political leaders are demanding answers from the Ministry of Transport and Works about the abrupt closure of a major roadway leading from the urban area to the heart of the rural parish.
The closure of the Brucevale Bridge on Fruitful Hill, leading from Welchman Hall, St Thomas to Belleplaine, St Andrew, is said to have cut off numerous communities from central parts of the country with little notice and without definitive timelines on how long the work will take.
People living north of the closed bridge at Brucevale, Baxters, Belleplaine and other parts of St Andrew must now take a “highly inconvenient” detour through St Thomas and St Joseph to get to the city. Residents relying on public transportation to get around are now being redirected through Dark Hole, Parks Road, and the Flower Forest.
“The reality is that what used to be a 45-minute ride would now be an hour and 15 minutes to get to and from,” explained Oldwin Skeete, the Democratic Labour Party’s candidate in St Andrew, while at the Brucevale Bridge on Thursday.
“Not only that, but people in the catchment area have to re-route themselves. As close as we are to Belleplaine which is a mile away, you now have to take a five-mile ride to go around St Thomas, back to St Joseph and around to Belleplaine. And because there is no gas station in the immediate area of St Joseph or St Thomas proper, anybody needing petrol would have to go to Belleplaine, but unfortunately they have to make a longer trek,” he added.
Even more frustrating for Skeete is the lack of communication from the relevant authorities informing them of the closure. He said that the apparent absence of preliminary work prior to the closure raises concerns about the timeline of the project.
“So, it seems like the people were an afterthought in this process and I believe that if this was a carefully thought out situation, the preliminary work should have been done before the closure of the bridge. If you knew the bridge was damaged, we could have done the basics like putting down piles and stuff so that the concrete could have enough time to cure, so that when you are ready to close the road, it would minimise the amount of time the people would be inconvenienced,” he further contended.
DLP candidate for St Joseph Randall Rouse described the developments as disrespectful and blasted the Government for touting its infrastructural work in the rural parishes.
“Right now, transport in this area will be very difficult. Persons that live on the other side of the bridge that catch the bus will have to come down here, turn around, go back up, go back through St Joseph and come right back down Coggins Hill, while at the same time, the Government has been boasting about Fruitful Hill and giving the impression that this road has been repaired. It is very evident that the majority of this road has not been repaired,” Rouse lamented.
He however acknowledged that the road was being worked on since 2007 under both major political parties and has only continued to drag along under the current administration.
Wayne Lee, who has been operating the Ackee Tree Bar at Cane Garden, St Andrew for more than 21 years, declared that his only desire is to have the road repaired.
“The roads are really treacherous, so we just want the roads fixed, because if the [Cane Garden] bridge were to break down now, we would be blocked in,” he said.
Efforts to reach an official from the MTW for comment were unsuccessful.