Wed | Feb 24, 2021

Richmond bridge woes linger as collapse widens

Published:Wednesday | January 27, 2021 | 4:12 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
A motorist drives over the collapsing Richmond bridge in St Mary. The bridge was officially closed in April 2020 because a section of it had caved in.
A motorist drives over the collapsing Richmond bridge in St Mary. The bridge was officially closed in April 2020 because a section of it had caved in.

The gaping hole in the bridge that connects the major communities of Richmond and Highgate in St Mary has more than doubled in size since its collapse eight months ago.

Residents have renewed desperate pleas for the structure to be repaired, even as they endanger their lives daily.

In April last year, they complained of hiked fares and back-breaking pressure carrying loads across the partially collapsed bridge that was closed to vehicular traffic.

Last Friday, the scene was quite the contrast - no taxis were loading on either side of the bridge, nor was there caution tape warning road users of the hazard.

More than a dozen vehicles, including a truck and a few taxis, passed within the first 10 minutes of the news team’s visit to the area.

Jason Clarke, a resident of Richmond, shared that since the bridge was damaged, he has been driving along the alternative routes of Aleppo or Marlborough, extending travel time by 30 minutes when he journeys to Port Maria for work.

“Not to mention the fuel cost and the wear and tear on the vehicle, because those two routes are in a deplorable condition. There are fords in it, so when it rains I can’t get to work,” he told The Gleaner.

Clarke explained that it was the only route that has a bridge, which makes it vital for commuting in the area.

Frustrated with the increased spending for transportation, he said that residents took it upon themselves to remove the heaps of dirt and stones blocking vehicular traffic and began traversing the bridge.

“We are desperately asking for help for this bridge to be fixed. They came in with some heavy equipment and started some work, then those equipment left, so we don’t know what’s happening in terms of the construction,” he said.

Clarke drives across the broken bridge 10 times a week - to and from work - and admitted that “it is a risk, but compared to the wear and tear on the vehicle and the time, it’s worth taking”.

A taxi driver revealed that it has been about six months since he and other motorists began crossing the bridge.

“I have to pass here suh ‘bout 100 time a day. Wah me really wah fi happen right now, a di bridge fix, ‘cause is an essential road fi everybody,” he appealed.

Another Richmond resident, Kemar Grant, shared that he drove over the bridge on Friday - the first time in several months - but is concerned about his safety.

“The bridge can collapse any time. Di bridge need fi fix, ‘cause a nuh everybody can afford the extra taxi fare,” Grant lamented.

National Works Agency Communication and Customer Services Manager Stephen Shaw said that there are still inherent dangers at the location.

The agency has underpinned a section of the embankment that had failed at a cost of $19 million.

“However, there remain unfinished works in respect of the wing walls. The posted signs at the location remain relevant,” Shaw said in an emailed response.

A date has not been set for the second phase of works, as it is being costed based on a recently completed design.

Shaw said the NWA is not seeking to alter the design of the infrastructure.