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Feb 28, 2008

Street paving delayed, but result will be worth it

Story PictureLast week the Belize City Council prepared the public for the imminent paving of Albert and Regent Streets … but it turns out they jumped the gun. Today News Five’s Janelle Chanona found out why.

Anthony Michael, Belize City Deputy Mayor
“We want to see a transformation where we come to a first class street once and for all in this country and this is where we are taking it.”

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
According to Deputy Mayor Anthony Michael, trapped beneath the asphalt of Regent and Albert Streets is a cobweb of wires, water pipes and telephone cables, which is why the City Council had to postpone its plans to pave the downtown area.

Anthony Michael
“The cry of the Belizean people ever since Janelle, is that we pave streets and it looks beautiful and two weeks or a month after, you have the utility companies come in and just rip it off. We don’t want this to happen with this particular project. We need to do things in Belize correct, once and for all.”

The City Council’s design would dramatically change the aesthetics of the area and traffic management.

Anthony Michael
“The plan entails having parking on only one side of Albert and Regent Street, rather than double side. With one side, the flow of traffic increases and safety for kids. When you have double parking, you don’t know from which end a kid will run out. So in this case it’s better for the motorists and pedestrians and even safer. On the sidewalks, the sidewalks will be widened just a little bit more and it will have stamp concrete, so rather than just having a concrete sidewalk where it looks ugly after a time, it will have proper stamped concrete with the colouring and everything that will last for many, many years.”

Janelle Chanona
“And where the people park, the ones that used to park on the other side of the street?”

Anthony Michael
“Well we are trying to create a little bit more parking, we are looking at a design right now behind the NICH parking lot. That has not been finalized if it’ll be one story, if it will be two stories. We haven’t finalised that based on cost and such as yet but we are working on that.”

The Ministry of Works will be providing technical support to the City Council during the project’s implementation. According to Minister Anthony Martinez, monies to pave a portion of the San Estevan/Progresso road with hot mix asphalt had already been secured through a loan with the Atlantic Bank. Because hot mix is normally used on roads that see in excess of twelve thousand vehicles a day, the idea is to use the material on the country’s two busiest streets, Albert and Regent, and then pave the northern road using the traditional chip and seal method.

Anthony “Boots” Martinez, Minister of Works
“What the hot mix do is to cover all the holes. It’s just an over layer of the hot mix so once the base is solid. Like for example, you can do Albert and Regent Streets in a day with the hot mix, once you have all the levels and everything is set but this will take about, I would say two months before it get it’s final touches because you have to put in the sidewalks, you have to put in the the beautification, you have to work with the utility companies so it’s an expensive operation but it’s worth it and I sure that the Belizean people will love it.”

Martinez says other high traffic areas in the city like Central American Boulevard and Fort Street will receive similar attention. Since taking office Martinez says he’s opened more than a hundred and fifty miles of feeder roads in the Corozal and Orange Walk districts, an initiative that he will also undertake in the south. Road works invariably cost millions of dollars but the Minister says it’s money well spent.

Anthony Boots Martinez
“We are meeting with the European Union on Monday for us to supply plans and so. We’ll be getting a relief for feeder roads and citrus roads and other farmers road countrywide so that will leave the Ministry of Works with its hands kind of free to tackle all the towns and city in this country. As you know town board and city council, apart from that, is coming up next year. And I’m wearing my political hat also, that this city and all towns countrywide, we are already starting to map out a comprehensive plan for the towns countrywide—and cities—so that the next city council election and town board election will be easy for the party.”

Back in the old capital, Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Works, Cadet Henderson, says the paving of the downtown area should only have minimal impact on day to day activities.

Cadet Henderson, C.E.O., Ministry of Works
“This is the central business district so we can’t appeal to people to do less traffic in this area but what we can assure the public is that we have already had the initial brainstorming on the traffic calming and methodologies that requires, that imparts minimal impact on the motoring public as well as pedestrian traffic that dominates here so we’ll phase the work zones in segments and the sidewalks of course, will be the main areas of disturbance but within the carriage way or the main paved area, the construction will mainly be an overlay.”

The improvements to Albert and Regent Streets are scheduled to start before the Easter holidays. Reporting for News Five, I am Janelle Chanona.

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