Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Kendal Bridge... Southern Highway

Let's talk about the Kendal Bridge.  Two years ago, during particularly nasty Tropical Storm Arthur, which formed off the coast of Belize on May 31, 2008 and quickly moved ashore, dumping as much as 15 inches of rain on the country and in the mountains of Guatemala in early June.

The Kendal Bridge over the Sittee River at Mile 13.7 of the Southern Highway between Hopkins and Maya Centre was destroyed, cutting off road access to points south, including Placencia and Punta Gorda.

The Kendal Bridge was originally built in 1985 with British Aid Funds. It had an over all span of 237 feet, with navigable clearance of 23 feet and carriageway width of 24 feet.

After the bridge was destroyed in the Tropical Storm Arthur flooding, a dirt, gravel and culvert causeway was built over the river, allowing cars, trucks and buses to pass. A few months later, in late October, 2008, the U.S. military provided a temporary replacement bridge, which was never installed. This, for reasons that have never been clear to me.

Since then a steel and wood causeway structure has serviced reasonably well, but it is only several feet off the river when it is at its' lowest point, and with any rise in river level during rains, it is quickly under water. A permanent replacement bridge is planned, but work has not begun on this project.
Tropical Storm Arthur flood that washed away the Kendal Bridge
The initial temporary causeway...

The "more permanent" and current steel girder bridge...

Those of us in the tourism business watch the mountain rains pretty closely on the weather radar and forecasts, and monitor various sources of information to try to keep us and our guests informed.  There is even a Facebook page that folks contribute bulletins of news and tidbits of information. 

Dial 636 here in Belize and it rings some GOB Transport Department office (I assume) apparently set up to provide Kendal Bridge information. I don't know what office, where it's located or who is answering... but the person I've spoken with twice sounded readily knowledgeable. The regular GOB National Emergency Management Office (NEMO) phone is 522-0061 (regular office hours).  

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