Driving on danger
Falmouth mayor, police, business community slam motorists using compromised Rock bridge
A section of the Rock Bridge which has been closed since February 2019.

FALMOUTH, Trelawny - Mayor of Falmouth and chairman of the Trelawny Municipal Corporation (TMC), Councillor C Junior Gager has described the actions of motorists who continue to use the compromised Rock Bridge, which has been closed for almost four years, as "suicidal".

The heavily traversed 103-year-old structure, which connects the historic town of Falmouth and the once-bustling fishing village of Rock, was closed by the National Works Agency NWA on the night of Wednesday, February 27, 2019, and the road leading to it blocked.

At the time, community relations officer for the NWA's Western Region, Janel Ricketts explained that during an inspection of the structure it was discovered that key components were worn and that the bridge was severely compromised, placing motorists at risk.

But recently the boulders that were placed at both ends of the road leading to the structure have disappeared and the pile of marl to complement the boulders flattened, opening up a passage to motorists.

A motorist approaches the Rock bridge in Trelawny which has been closed for almost four years due its dilapidated state.

Earlier this week Gager joined other stakeholders in condemning the action of the disobedient motorists, arguing that they are placing themselves and passengers at great risk.

"It poses such a danger out there for these motorists who are flaunting the orders of the NWA and travel on that road. It suggests that they just don't care, they just want to reach where they are going. What about their lives and those of the people they are transporting?" Gager asked.

"The passengers, too, should realise and take responsibility and know that travelling that road, they could be committing suicide because they know the danger and are travelling on it," he added.

Gager also lashed out on the individuals who supposedly removed the large boulders placed at both entrances of the road leading to the bridge.

MILTON…we are in dialogue with the National Works Agency about reclosing the road.

"These people could not have moved it by hand so equipment must have been used to move it, and that is a cruel act," he remarked.

Deputy Superintendent of Police Winston Milton, commander of the Trelawny Police Division (DSP), also warned that motorists using the bridge are putting their lives at risk.

"We are in dialogue with the National Works Agency about reclosing the road, and in the interim we are appealing to the motorists to desist from using this particular road because the structural bridge has been compromised, based on what the NWA has said, and consequently poses a threat to the motorists who continue to use it," DSP Milton warned.

James Tweedie, acting president of the Trelawny Chamber of Commerce and Industry, also condemned the use of the damaged bridge by motorists.

RICKETTS… we have spoken with a contractor already with a view to having some more materials dumped there to lock off the bridge.

"We have spoken to the NWA about it so it is now in their hands, and at the same time the chamber would like to see the structure replaced," Tweedie said.

Ricketts told the Jamaica Observer West that already the NWA has made arrangements for the entrances to the road leading to the bridge to again be blocked.

"We have spoken with a contractor already with a view to having some more materials dumped there to lock off the bridge," said Ricketts.

"Persons are only looking at the surface [of the bridge] but the sea water has corroded it, so if you examine the bridge closer you will see that there is significant erosion to the bridge so it ought not to be used anytime. It's unfortunate that persons, based on my information, took the steps to remove materials that were there so they have a narrow path now which they are using."

But Gager is asking personnel from the NWA to monitor the roads leading to the bridge when it is closed off again.

GAGER… we have to be responsible and do our part to save lives.

"What the NWA should do is check the road regularly after they block it off this time. I would recommend they use heavy boulders, something that will be hard to move and deny motorists access. We have to be responsible and do our part to save lives," the mayor argued.

Meanwhile EG Hunter, chief executive officer of the NWA who appealed to the Trelawny residents for patience, told the Observer West on Tuesday that there are no immediate plans to construct a new bridge at Rock.

"I am not saying that the Government won't rebuild the bridge at some point in time but right now it's not on the immediate agenda," he said, adding that there are areas with greater need for the construction of bridges.

"...And the truth about it is that while there might be some inconvenience to some persons, there is an alternate route so it is not like people are cut off from civilisation. There are other places where residents are in much greater peril so it's just a matter of being patient until such time that financing can be identified and the priority in terms of that bridge has been escalated," Hunter appealed.

BY HORACE HINES Observer West reporter hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com

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