The opening ceremony drew 10 ministers of government and the senate. Construction and works took over 11 million dollars and 12 months for the project to come to fruition, and on Tuesday December 9, the Bois D’Orange Bridge was finally declared open. Oh, the catering alone we have learnt cost a whopping EC$30,000 not to mention the cost for the décor, tents and PA.
Along with many other bridges and infrastructural commodities, the Bois D’Orange Bridge had suffered extensive damage after the passage of Hurricane Tomas in October 2010. With it being one of the connecting rods along the busiest roadway on the island, rehabilitation works had become a necessity as the bridge catered to an average of 22,000 vehicles per day, and rehabilitation works caused an adverse inconvenience to the flow of traffic from Castries to Gros Islet and the northern end of the island.
Among the attendees Tuesday were Prime Minister Dr. Kenny D. Anthony, Parliamentary Representative for Gros Islet, Emma Hippoltyte and Minister for Infrastructure, Phillip J. Pierre, along with the Ambassadors of Taiwan, Mexico and Morocco to name a few. Also in attendance were students of the Corinth Secondary School and School’s Choir as well as members of the public including residents of the different communities in the Gros Islet area.
The new structure, as explained by Minister for Infrastructure Phillip J Pierre, is an 18-meter single span, composite steel and concrete structure and is supported on reinforced concrete piles. The new bridge, though it will initially operate as a two-lane, was built to accommodate four-lane traffic, in keeping with future plans for the northern highway. The government of Saint Lucia has continuously made mention of extending the roadway from Castries to Gros Islet to a four lane highway.
The Prime Minister addressed the gathering and he applauded road users, residents and the local business community for their patience during the construction period, but went on to further enjoin the forbearance of the public as his administration presses ahead with more infrastructural development.
“The bad news is that there is more disruption to come. In the months ahead you will probably have to face some more disruption as we seek to expand the highway from the Choc Bridge to Gros Islet.
“As you know, the Government of Saint Lucia has received a substantial loan at a very modest interest rate from the Kuwaiti Fund to expand the highway from the Choc Bridge, and that is going to take a couple months of construction. And once again we are going to come to you on bended knees and ask you to forgive us as we seek to improve the flow of traffic between Gros Islet and the city.
“To make matters worse, disruption will also be caused by the reconstruction of the Choc Bridge. And if you thought $11.2 million was a lot of money on this bridge, then brace yourselves, because the Choc Bridge will cost even more from what we are seeing of the estimates. So, residents of Gros Islet, it is all in the name of development. I’m sorry, but I have to try and protect you for the future and to resolve once and for all the problems we have had at Choc Bridge over the past few years,” Anthony said.
With the PM himself asking for belt-tightening and for acceptance of wage cuts and freezes, one could not help but wonder how the country will cope with another project on the horizon which will be even more costly than this recently completed one.
At the end of the ceremony, pensioner Iris Macauldy, who is now confined to a wheelchair, had the honour of cutting the ribbon to officially declare the bridge open.