Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Public Works Iram Lewis, Member of Parliament for Central Grand Bahama admitted that while the work on the Fishing Hole Road Bridge/Causeway is progressing well, the accessibility to the adjacent Fish Vendor Market poses a concern.
The project in which ground was officially broken in December 2015, under the former Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administration, was awarded to ABC Construction Co. Ltd, at an estimated cost of $6. 5 million.
Speaking with this daily earlier this month, May 4, Lewis confessed, “The work is progressing well in parts, but there are some issues that must be resolved.
“We had requested an overall master plan, quite some time ago, because I wanted to see how the Fishing Village area (Fish Vendor Market) was going to be accessed. I wanted to see the access and egress routes. I am no road engineer, but I am an experienced motorist and what was presented certainly cannot work,” said Lewis.
“I alerted the Technical Department (Ministry of Works), they are reviewing it and they are in agreement about the concerns that were presented. There was a site meeting with the senior structural engineer, the civil design team from Nassau and the contractor, on the jobsite, Thursday, May 2, with a view to review what was presented and look at options,” he revealed.
Elaborating on some of his concerns with respect to the proposed roadway entering and exiting the Fishing Village, Lewis said, “The Bahamas Building Code was designed to ensure the safety of the occupants of the buildings, the end users – whether schools, churches or residences – to ensure that all are safe. The Road Traffic Act was also done with the same thing in mind, to ensure safety on the road. We do not want to build a brand-new causeway and at that end of the day, it is dangerous for the motoring public.
“The point of contention for me was on the southwestern side of the causeway. If you were to exit the Fishing Village and go into the traffic heading into the Freeport area, it is fine. But if you were to make a U-turn heading west, when a motorist is heading east over the causeway, that would be a recipe for disaster,” maintained Lewis.
“A proper easement needs to be made, whether we put a roundabout there or perhaps a turning lane but I can tell you from my perspective, as I did civil engineering as a minor in college and just being a general motorist, that was not going to work the way it was presented.
“In the meantime, they will continue to pave, they will continue to strip and continue working on the Parking Lot itself. But the road to and from the Fishing Village is now being redesigned so at the end of the day, when that is done, we are happy that it is properly done and that it is safe. After that we will talk about opening it up,” said the PS.
As far as the road presently being utilized by motorists, Lewis informed that it will remain in place and be used as a service road, only, for the transport of heavy equipment.
“I want to advise the public that that road will not be removed or closed. It will remain as a service lane only,” he reiterated.
“The existing road right now, will not be closed off. We will not get rid of that road. It will be used as a service road. If there is a need for any large equipment to go to and from the (Grand Bahama) Shipyard or the (Freeport) Container Port, the proper authorities will be alerted and there will be barricades to close those areas off, so that the regular motoring public will not be able to use it.
“Whenever we are notified that we need to open the service road, the road will be opened for them to transport to and from to ensure that it is not used as a regular route, only a service road,” Lewis stressed.
“With respect to tidal flow, there is a bulkhead (retaining wall) between the Northside and the Southside. We are talking with the Ministry of the Environment, also with the view of placing culverts under the road to ensure that we have a smooth flow of current.
“We want to ensure that the creek is recharged, so that water continues to flow and we do not fight against nature. We need to compliment nature as much as possible,” he explained.
As it relates to the workmanship on the bridge, Lewis said, “The level of workmanship is good, the causeway is being paved right now, it is being stripped and the protective barricades are being installed.
“With respect to flooding, the causeway will not solve all of the problems that we are experiencing during the Hurricane Season. I am not convinced that where the bridge ends on the Southeastern side is at a high enough location where people can drive on dry land and so, we may have to look at an elevation there and see how we can rectify it.
“As soon as we have all of those minor technical issues worked out, we will get an updated schedule from the contractor. Once we have that we will talk about opening day.
“We have raised the bar with Smith’s Point Sea wall,” said Lewis. “Whatever we do, with respect to capital works is going to be at that level or higher moving forward. Once we hit that level, we will be okay. We are not going to spend the people’s money in a foolish manner. Once that money is spent, it will be well spent and it will last for a long time.”