THE 2003 year-old iron bridge in Spanish Town St Catherine is to be restored at a cost of $3.8 million.
The project is being funded by the World Monument Foundation and the Georgian Society of London, England. Work is expected to start this week and is expected to be completed in two months.
".We can't allow it to deteriorate and die with its rich heritage (so) we must preserve it for posterity. When the restoration is completed in eight weeks, it will look just like when it was erected in 1801," chairman of the Spanish Town Iron Bridge Foundation Keble Williams told the Observer.
Williams said the foundation will also landscape the land surrounding the bridge to erect a canteen, museum, souvenir shops, rest area and bathrooms, with the hope of attracting tourists to the restored bridge.
The land adjacent to the bridge is owned by Shell Company and Williams said representation is being made to Shell to donate it to the foundation. But the foundation is looking for an additional $125 million for this development, based on a budget presented five years ago. "We will have to solicit funding for that, but the Spanish Town business community is not very receptive to this sort of thing because they don't consider it expedient to give money to the bridge Foundation," Williams lamented.
Built to accommodate horse-drawn carriages, the bridge was closed 69 years ago to make way for the modern Stubs Bridge which spans the Rio Cobre River, linking Spanish Town to Kingston.
Rehabilitation work on the historic iron bridge will include stabilising the north abutment foundation, river training, installation of Gabon basket (30 metres up and down stream) and the replacement and painting of the frame.
Meanwhile, junior transport and works minister Fenton Ferguson said the Stubs bridge is to undergo repairs. "Start-up time is May 2005 and completion is May 2006," he said.
Ferguson said a shipment of bridge parts from London will be in Jamaica by January 2005, and fabrication work will begin 16 weeks after the parts have arrived.
While declining to give the cost of repairs, Fenton said it is part of the Mable Johnson bridge programme, under which 40 bridges are to be built and/ or repaired at a cost of $22.4 billion over the next three to five years.