Gareth Davis Sr, Gleaner Writer
ST MARGARETS BAY, Portland:
A US$28-million state-of-the-art bridge at Rio Grande in St Margaret's Bay, Portland, was officially open by Minister of Transport, Works, and Housing Dr Omar Davies on Friday.
The completion of the bridge comes seven years after a promise made by then Prime Minister P.J Patterson while on a tour in 2005 following the collapse of the original bridge during the passage of Hurricane Dennis. Patterson, while responding to a question posed by residents, pointed to the area where the new bridge is located and indicated that a replacement bridge would be constructed there.
On Friday, Davies reiterated that the Government is on a quest to tackle the country's infrastructure, which is paramount for any real economic growth. While stressing the importance of restoring the basic infrastructure islandwide, the minister noted that the repairing, construction, and upgrading of the country's infrastructure will not be influenced by partisan politics, noting that "it is not appropriate to use the selection of infrastructural projects as a way of determining political rivalry".
Built in Vaz's constituency
The new Rio Grande Bridge is located in the West Portland constituency represented by opposition Member of Parliament Daryl Vaz.
"This opening is symbolic and important. Jamaica's diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China (PRC) date back to 40 years to the Michael Manley-led administration," commented Davies. "Today, the PRC has the second-largest economy in the world. Our investment in infrastructure will apply to those that are of urgent need."
Added Davies: "This bridge was constructed ahead of schedule and well within the budget. The fact that China Harbour Construction Company was able to complete this bridge within the budget and on time is commendable, and our local contractors and engineers should realise and make the effort to do likewise, and this should be the norm for all."
Speaking during the opening ceremony, Chinese Ambassador Zheng Qingdian said the relationship with Jamaica has been strengthened over the years with China Harbour undertaking a number of infrastructural projects across the island. He also pointed out that Chinese engineers also shared their skills and experience with Jamaican workers, who are now more knowledgable about the technical aspects of bridge construction.
Meantime, both members of parliament - Daryl Vaz in West Portland, and Linvale Bloomfield in East Portland - expressed gratitude for the new bridge, which not only links both constituencies, but will provide a smoother and easier ride for motorists and other visitors to the parish.
The Rio Grande bridge links the parish capital Port Antonio to the rest of Western Portland and is the main access route between the parish and a number of the island's commercial centres such as Kingston, Ocho Rios, and Montego Bay. The two-lane bridge has a length of approximately 230 metres and has a design life of 75 years.
The original bridge was partially destroyed by Hurricane Dennis in July 2005, and was rendered unsafe for vehicular traffic. In the interim, the old railway bridge was modified to accommodate single-lane traffic.