The ghosts of Flat Bridge wailing again

Friday, October 05, 2012

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THE deaths of three men, including a father and son, who crashed off the Flat Bridge in the Bog Walk Gorge, St Catherine, Wednesday night, reinforces the utter frustration being felt by many Jamaicans who keep begging for a practical alternative route linking the north and south coasts.

While we don't join the criticisms of the Christiana bypass road, we sometimes, in exasperation, wonder if it would not have been better to spend that money on completing the highway from Ocho Rios, St Ann, to Spanish Town, St Catherine.

The history of the Flat Bridge is replete with tales of the deaths of Jamaicans, dating back to its very construction in the 1700s.

When the bridge was being constructed, it is said, the 16 plantations in the area had to contribute one slave out of every 50 they owned to work on the bridge.

"Slaves often lost their lives as they performed dangerous tasks in the Gorge," according to Wikipedia.

It is also of note that between 1881 and 1915, the floor of the bridge was washed away and later re-floored with iron girders and buckle plates taken from the original flooring of the May Pen Bridge. In the 1930s it had metal handrails, and later wooden ones, but these were devoured by the river at different times.

The original builders of the bridge, which is one of the oldest in the Western Hemisphere, would no doubt have used the best technlogy and bridge-building techniques available to them in the 1700s. In a sense, the bridge is a marvel and says much about the engineers of those days.

That it remains the main corridor between the north and south coasts also says much -- words that we could not print here -- about the engineers of today and the several People's National Party and Jamaica Labour Party administrations which have never found the will to provide Jamaicans a safer, quicker route over the years.

We are among those who were excited with the start of the toll road from Ocho Rios to St Catherine and believed that the
P J Patterson administration, under which it began, had finally seen the light.

The project never seemed to excite the Bruce Golding Administration enough to spur them to complete it.

Perhaps, Transport Minister Dr Omar Davies might be moved to secure the legacy of Mr Patterson in this area, by seeing that the road is completed in short order.

The Prime Minister Mrs Portia Simpson Miller recently spoke about building a highway from Port Antonio to Kingston and we are among her biggest backers of such a project. However, let's get the Ocho Rios-Spanish Town road finished first.

We hope that out of the tragic deaths of Messrs Michael Nicholas, his son, Travis, and Kemar Watt, will come some good. If so, they would not have died in vain, only to add to the number of ghosts already haunting the infamous gorge.




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