Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Saturday | October 1, 2011
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Port Maria footbridge to swing again
The timely cleaning of drains such as this one, which runs across Warner and Main streets, has helped to reduce the level of flooding which plagued the parish capital many years ago.

PORT MARIA, St Mary:

THE SWINGING bridge is coming back! Mayor of Port Maria Richard Creary told The Gleaner recently that a new structure would be built to replace the swinging bridge that for years spanned the Outram River, providing the pivotal link to Market Street for those wanting to reach the market or library from Main Street.

Over time, the combined impact of the saltly air and lack of maintenance led to the deterioration of the metal and wooden structure, which fell out of use more than 20 years ago.

Now, those who have only heard about the fun and scary times crossing the bridge will have a chance to recapture that experience, according to Creary.

"The swinging bridge is something we have been trying for the longest time to get rebuilt. Finally, now it is on the JDIP (Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme). I got a call from the contractor some months ago saying he would be starting soon and would be getting in touch with me," the mayor disclosed.

Work not yet started

"A subcontractor was selected but the work has not started, but it is on the programme. That would assist in terms of persons moving from the market to the transportation centre. It is something that is back on the table and it is something we are just awaiting for the contractor to start," he added.

That, however, is not the only improvement the town can expect in the short term. The North Coast Highway going through the middle of town has resulted in major improvements to Stennett Street, bringing into sharp contrast the poor state of Main and Warner streets, two of the major thoroughfares for entering and leaving the town. While Stennett Street has undergone major rehabilitation, Main and Warner streets were slated to receive some patching under the JDIP. This has not happened and the deplorable state of these roadways has prompted the parish council to act. Hot-mixing patching is slated to begin in a couple of weeks, with the estimate in the region of $600,000.

"For a couple months now we have been waiting on the JDIP, which is why we haven't done anything to it recently, but it has reached a stage now that it doesn't seem JDIP will be kicking in, in terms of that patching, anytime in the very near future," Creary said in offering justification for the decision. He admits that given the number and state of the potholes, this well-used stretch of road needs to be rehabilitated, but he says the council does not have enough money to undertake that level of work.

Flooding, which over the years has wreaked havoc in the town, is another issue the St Mary Parish Council is moving to address. According to the mayor, all the due diligence has been done and they are aware of what needs to done. Most of the work will involve river training along sections of the Outram, which passes through the town.

Serious flooding problem

Describing the flooding as a "much more serious problem", the mayor explained that there is need for more training along the section of the Outram, which passes behind the National Water Commission office. Identified as the lowest section of the town whenever the river overflows its banks, most of the water flows into the parish capital from that area.

Add to that the impact of drains not cleaned in years, and you have a recipe for disaster at the slightest threat of rain. The council can take some credit for work in this area, having undertaken a major drain-cleaning exercise throughout the town, which has gone a fair way in alleviating the problem, especially along Warner Street, according to Creary.

Drain cleaning helps

Added he: "Even when there is no water coming from the river, as soon as rain falls in that area you have water rising. Since we did that, water in the drain has subsided, and that has solved that problem in that area, but until we have the gabion work done further up, we still are at risk of flooding if we get heavy rains and the river rises.

"What we usually do in April and May of every year, since the hurricane season starts in June, is use all of our parochial revenue funds to do drain cleaning, not only in Port Maria but all the critical drains in the parish, prior to the hurricane season. So that was done and drain cleaning is ongoing."

So despite the still unresolved issues such as congestion in the town centre, given the plans in train, all things considered, it would seem that things are looking up in and for Port Maria.

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