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May 22, 2018

The Bold Plan to Transform Belize’s Transportation Sector

Belize’s commuters are already experiencing the growing pains of the infrastructure work taking place across the country. But there is a lot more to come, as in the next two decades current and future governments will be operating under the aegis of a document released today. It is the Comprehensive National Transportation Master Plan, coordinated by the Department of Public-Private Dialogue in the Office of the Prime Minister, with funding provided by the Japan Special Fund of the Inter-American Development Bank. It combines many well-known projects with ambitious plans that, if achieved, will do no less than change the very face of Belize. News Five’s Aaron Humes reports.

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

A North-South Highway from Orange Walk to Belmopan? Not one, but two and possibly three cruise ports in the Belize District? All four major highways and many smaller ones paved and upgraded to all-weather status? A reduction in the number of traffic accidents? International airports in San Pedro and Placencia and expansion everywhere else? The strategy presented today by a multi-sectoral grouping dares to dream, big.

 

Edmond Castro

Edmond Castro, Minister of Transport

“I think the younger ones behind us will be very impressed, Dr. Rogers, that we took time out to develop a strategic plan as the way forward to develop our country, and to move our country [forward] in the twenty-first century and beyond. When the rest of nations and the world were moving forward, we never had such a comprehensive document to guide us. I looked over this document this past weekend; we are looking at everything as it relates to public transportation – shuttle buses; public transportation; we are looking at the water taxi; we are looking and planning for those using the municipal airstrip. We know exactly, scientifically, how many people use our highways in terms of commuters, in terms of private transport. We know scientifically how many people will be able to use and what we need to do to invest now, so that we know that we might be able to go from municipal airstrips to bigger carriers – we have the data. The data here today, that reflects what we will need in the next [few years] – 2025; 2035.”

 

The strategy recognizes the importance of road infrastructure and includes a timeline for nearly every major road in the country to be upgraded by 2035. Some, like the Caracol Road and Coastal Highway and even the minister’s native Old Northern Highway, are already in planning and/or construction stages. But there is also a role for safety, according to I.D.B. specialist Christopher Broussard.

 

Christopher Broussard

Christopher Broussard, Senior Transport Specialist, I.D.B.

“To ensure that transportation, all modes of it, are safe, you first need to have a good institutional setting; a good legal framework as well that is able to capture and manage your safety issues. That is definitely one of the facets that is addressed within the study.”

 

Say goodbye to the Bluebirds – the Executive Director of the Economic Development Council, Ishmael Quiroz, says Belizeans will soon ride in style.

 

Ishmael Quiroz

Ishmael Quiroz, Executive Director, Economic Development Council

“What the Transportation Master Plan includes as key recommendations with regard to public transportation is a gradual improvement in the quality of the buses available for public use. And that’s going to take regulatory reform to enable longer-term licenses that will be able to allow operators to be able to provide services. That in turn should be able to incentivize the typically small bus operators to be able to invest in the bus fleets. And that should be coupled with improved criteria, improved quality, that the operators will need to comply with in order to be able to provide better services.”

 

The end result, says I.D.B. Country Representative Dr. Cassandra Rogers, must be a country that moves.

 

Cassandra Rogers

Dr. Cassandra Rogers, Country Representative, I.D.B.

“Now that the plan is here, it needs to be implemented; it needs to be disseminated widely, not only at the technical level, but to the average citizen in general. Because the plan can only be effectively implemented – it involves a large group of stakeholders, and these stakeholders need to have a clear understanding of the content of the plan, what are the objectives; how it is benefiting Belize; how it is benefiting themselves, and what is their role and responsibility in the implementation of that plan.”

 

Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

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