Clarendon residents' protest may be in vainFriday, September 10, 2021
MAY PEN, Clarendon — Residents in southern Clarendon on Wednesday blocked the Alley Bridge to call attention to the dilapidated structure which they say deteriorates even more with each heavy shower of rain.
Tired of having to pay extra to use longer routes whenever the bridge is impassable, they want a long-term solution, not just the quick fix of dumping marl on the surface. However, according to the state agency responsible, a long-term solution is not immediately on the cards as it will take millions of dollars to do the work needed.
“Dem just throw di marl inna it and as soon as di river come down it just wash way and we gone back to square one,” said a frustrated Isaac Latchman. He operates a taxi between May Pen and Race Course. “If they would just fix it the right and proper way we wouldn't have no problem. When the bridge is out of service it cost more money, more gas and everything; it's just more problem. It's difficult for us and also the passengers… especially for those who are going to work,” he added.
Member of Parliament for Clarendon Southwest Lothan Cousins, who shares the residents' concerns, told the Jamaica Observer this is the third time in the last year that the bridge has become impassable. “It has been reduced to single-lane traffic and has caused the residents to be concerned about their safety. You can imagine an essential worker leaving the Lionel Town Hospital in the wee hours of the morning and travelling on this single-lane bridge — it will certainly pose a hazard,” he said. There was also the added danger, he said, of taxi drivers forced to slow down because of the state of the roadway, and falling prey to hoodlums who use the bushes for cover.
Cousins is calling on the National Works Agency (NWA) to act.
“We can't continue to spend taxpayers' money over and over every year to fix a section that is washed out. It's a waste of time and money… We can't continue to live like this. It is unacceptable and we need to find a solution,” the MP urged.
Communications Manager at the NWA Stephen Shaw said the agency is aware of the concerns, but the issue is one of funding. The strategy, he said, has been to find short-term solutions while the NWA awaits the funds needed for a long-term fix.
“Based on what we know, any decision to put a bridge there will require the Government to come up with a significant capital outlay, possibly running into hundreds of millions of dollars. What we have sought to do over time is to make the structure that is there more resilient, and we have accomplished that to a certain extent,” he said. “Now that a section of the bridge is reduced to single-lane [traffic] we are going to be doing some remedial work as part of our ongoing processes in responding to damage associated with Tropical Storm Ida. Those works will be initiated and concluded in very short order.”
Shaw added that a long-term solution will require decisions to be taken at the highest level of Government as it relates to the construction of a new bridge.
“Such a decision will have to be informed by studies on the history of flooding in the area, the amount of water that flows in that space and significant land acquisition, among other things,” he explained. In the meantime, he said, the agency will — in the coming days — restore the area that was damaged.
The Alley Bridge connects communities in southern Clarendon such as Race Course, Sedge Pond, Springfield, Banks and Kemps Hill, all of which have a combined population of roughly 10,000 people.