COWICK PARK, Manchester — Residents here say they are optimistic that their lives and commute will return to normality, following an announcement by Prime Minister Andrew Holness that the Government is moving to fast-track the replacement of the nearby Troy Bridge.
Holness, in addressing the House of Representatives last Wednesday, said the collapsed bridge is not a "situation of which the Government is proud".
"I have seen the situation regarding the Troy Bridge and I am following it. I have been briefed that the designs [for a new bridge] are complete. My understanding is that they are about to go to procurement soon…" he said.
"The Government of Jamaica takes these situations very seriously and it is not our intention for the people to believe that their plight is not considered as serious and therefore…I am going to be personally visiting Troy. I will make the arrangements. We have been moving to fast-track the arrangements to make sure that the bridge is in place," he added.
Last month the Sunday Observer published two articles highlighting the continued danger faced by the children and other residents of Cowick Park in Manchester and Troy in Trelawny in crossing the Hector's River where the bridge collapsed a year ago.
There has since been widespread debate over concerns of safety in crossing the river and the response of minister with responsibility for works Everald Warmington to replace the 125-year-old bridge, which connected almost 2,000 residents between Manchester North Western and Trelawny Southern. The bridge collapsed on August 18, 2021.
Cowick Park resident Hazeline Williams, whose grandson Damar Webby, 14, survived a near-death experience having almost drowned while crossing the river in June on his way home from school, said she hopes the prime minister keeps his promise.
She said last Thursday that her grandson couldn't cross the river to get home from school as it went into spate, covering a makeshift footbridge, created from a fallen tree.
"… Although my grandson asked a teacher for a pass to go through the gate, because he knew it was going to rain and she said she would let him have it early, [but] she didn't give it to him and he didn't come home until this morning [Friday]," she explained.
"When he reached the bridge it was already overflowing, so he had to stay by one of my friends [in Troy], so I only hope the prime minister really keeps his promise and let us have something done soon…" added Williams.
Another resident, Dulcy Bromfield, is eagerly awaiting the new bridge.
"I am very glad to hear about it. I feel so good. I hope it will finish soon. I wouldn't mind if they start working [on it] tomorrow," she said.
Cowick Park yam farmer David Lewis said he now has hope that commerce will return to his community.
"We feel good and happy fi know seh something is going to be done. We know we still have to wait, because it [new bridge] is not something that aguh just urgently just jump on tomorrow. From him [Holness] seh him ago do it, we a look forward to it happening. We just a wait fi see dem come and see dem start it…" said Lewis.
"It would a make me can save something in my pocket, because now it costs me a lot to get over there [Troy] without the bridge, but like how we aguh get the bridge and [when] we have it, we know we aguh have less stress and problems," he added.
Lewis is also looking forward to reopening his hardware in Cowick Park.
"After we get the bridge, it aguh take a little time to build back the [hardware] name in the streets and get back customers," he said.
Wilson Run (Trelawny community four miles away from Troy) resident Winston Taylor is anticipating the new bridge.
"The bridge is very necessary and every day it is getting worse. I feel much better now [hearing that] the bridge is going to be replaced, so I can get to go look for my mother [in Cowick Park]," he said.
Troy resident Yvette Richards felt relieved to hear Holness's commitment to fast track the replacement of the bridge.
"Me glad seh dem ago fix the bridge, because the children need fi can come a school [safely] and stop walk on the makeshift bridge. People [from Troy] will get back dem work over St Elizabeth," she said.