Former JLP senator, business community, slam NWA for sudden closure of Rock bridge

Horace Hines Observer West reporter

Thursday, March 14, 2019

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ROCK, Trelawny — Former Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) caretaker for Trelawny Northern Dennis Meadows has blasted the National Works Agency (NWA) for the sudden closure of the century-old bridge at Rock district that connects the community and Falmouth.

“I can't fathom [how] an organised and civilised country with respect for its citizens permanently closes a major road overnight. It is grossly unacceptable and will not be tolerated by the people of Falmouth, no way!” Meadows, who is a Trelawny businessman, expressed.

The heavily traversed bridge was closed on the night of Wednesday, February 27, much to the surprise of members of the public.

In fact, no prior warning was given to the public before the action.

Community relations officer for the NWA's Western RegionJanel Ricketts could not confirm if the bridge will be permanently closed.

“My information is that it is closed now and we are now determining the way forward, but I cannot say it will be permanently closed,” Ricketts told the Observer West during a telephone interview earlier this week.

She explained that during a recent inspection of the structure it was discovered that key components are worn and the bridge is severely compromised, placing motorists at risk. The structure was some time ago closed for critical repairs; however, the Observer West understands that the age of the bridge has rendered further maintenance works unfeasible.

President of the Trelawny Chamber of Commerce Delroy Christie argued that the urgent closure of the aged bridge is a reflection of its neglect by the NWA.

“They seemed to have had an emergency because they didn't realise the extent to which the bridge had deteriorated, which obviously is a problem on how they maintain their bridges. It didn't happen overnight; it happened over a long period of time. They should have anticipated it and make provisions for when they are going to maintain the bridge. This apparently wasn't done,” a furious Christie told the Observer West.

Meadows, a former Government senator, also questioned why the bridge was allowed to degenerate to that extent.

“I ask the question, why was this 100-year-old bridge allowed to be deteriorated without maintenance, and why isn't there a plan to replace same? Why the sudden permanent closure without due public notice and sensitisation? Why the approach to reducing vehicular traffic on the aged bridge in terms of the size of motor vehicles was not considered? These questions deserve answers by the NWA and the local authority,” the former JLP candidate stressed.

Member of Parliament for Trelawny Northern Victor Wright said he supports the “closure in the interest of public safety.” He, however, has issue with the NWA for not adequately informing motorists of the alternate routes.

“I think the NWA could have better signage and notification given to the community on alternate routes; improve signage, road markings and stoplight along the highway,” Wright said.

Business interests are also expressing concerns over the loss of business in the wake of the closure.

Gas station and plaza operator Dowen Virgo told the Observer West that he might have to downsize his staff complement of 55, because of the expected downturn in business.

And fruit vendor Carlene Whittaker, who for the last 25 years has been banking heavily on motorists who use the bridge for patronage, is also bracing for a decline.

“Passersby support me. Mi get more support from people who pass. We need to know how long it will take to fix. If it lock [remains closed] we will have to find other alternatives,” said Whittaker, who operates a small but well-stocked shop a few metres from the bridge.

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