Commuters take matters in hand over the impassable San Estevan Road
There was mayhem today in Orange Walk as commuters were unable to drive through the San Estevan road to get to their destinations. The stretch of road which links San Estevan to the Philip Goldson Highway was to have been paved since the start of the year, but that hasn’t happened. And with the heavy rains over the past days, the condition has further deteriorated. This morning, commuters said they had enough. Mike Rudon headed north and has this report.
Mike Rudon, Reporting
Early this morning about four hundred angry commuters who use the San Estevan Road on a daily basis blocked it in protest. Actually, they didn’t need to block it because the already badly dilapidated road was rendered impassable by the incessant rains in the north. This morning buses from as far as Sarteneja and commuters from all the villages in between Sarteneja and Orange Walk were unable to cross these swampy areas of road and water which was at least two feet deep in places.
Ezekiel Cansino, Chairman, San Estevan Cane Farmers
“This morning weh happen dah di bus couldn’t make it so it blocked the road. So nobody else could do it and so the police had to come and move them. But still the thing is that no one can go through. The bus couldn’t make it because the condition of the road is too bad.”
Shawn Gonguez, Chairman, Progresso Village
“The school children from Progresso, we have from Chunox, Sarteneja; from all the areas. Most of them couldn’t reach school because the buses just stop there and they went right back because they cannot cross the road.”
The road is heavily trafficked by workers and students who need to get to Orange Walk and parts beyond, and the road situation, which was already bad because of the condition, has now become intolerable.
Luciano Kiow, Commuter from Progresso
“We’re all stressed out and talked about this situation. We had been complaining and complaining and it seems as though it has fallen on deaf ears. Where I live in Progresso as we all know, we have to access this road. Just a while ago, I need to go to my work, but I cannot pass. As you can see, I am already barefooted. I already take off my shoes and everything because I have to walk the way to cross the bad side and find a way to reach Orange Walk so that I can go to San Pedro.”
“We depend mainly on this road to go to Orange Walk because the only other access is to go through Corozal through the ferry and that road is under very bad conditions also. And with this one getting worse for the past three weeks it has been this way. And it is getting worse and nothing is being done with it.”
The anger of the commuters has been fueled by the fact that the road was supposed to be paved a long time ago. In fact, this sign proudly shows the starting and completion dates. As you can see, the road was to be finished in May, 2013. But it hasn’t even gotten underway. The Ministry of Works cannot touch the road, since it has already been handed over to the contractor. The people have had enough of the delay.
“I am happy because I have shown patience, but that patience is getting to the limit and I think that today, the people that were out here, they showed it. and we cannot allow to stay in this condition for tomorrow.”
“People are already getting annoyed; they are mad and I believe they won’t be tolerating this anymore because it is a long time now and we don’t see any action.”
With the situation coming to a head, this morning representatives from the Ministry of Works put serious pressure on the contractor, a joint venture between Bella Vista Development and Lopez Equipment. Although very late, they committed to fixing the parts of the road which were impassable.
Ramy Chia, Engineer, Joint Venture
“Right now we are trying to mobilize some equipment; have them come and deal with the problem that we have here. Due to the fact that the contract was suspended for a short period, we have the situation that has boiled up today. But we are mobilizing an excavator and we have already organized twelve trucks to bring materials and dump on the site and getting some culvert in place also so that we can try to make the water flow across easily and the people can pass.”
And they had some good news…the real roadwork will soon get underway. Of course, after past experience the commuters will have to see it to believe it.
“Right now it is just emergency works that we are doing, but the real works should be starting sometime near the end of the month where we shall be actually doing what was in the contract for us to do. And we are supposed to be aiming for completion within I think it was thirteen months that they were giving us. We are going to, weather holding up, we are going to aim for that.”
“We are Belizeans; we have the rights to have our road. We are asking and we are pleading to everybody—in power or out of power; representatives it doesn’t matter if it is P.U.P. or U.D.P., it doesn’t matter the party; we are calling on Florencio Marin—this is part of your area, Corozal South East belongs to you. Mister Vega, you are the deputy Prime Minister, look at this. Mister Rosado where are you? Where are the people that run this country? Where are the people that say that they look out for the people? Where are the people that collecting a lot of money of our tax. These are the people we need to come and see. They have a good truck; they have a good living. We need the road; we need our road to be fixed.”
When we left the area this afternoon, there were trucks with material getting ready to dump and heavy equipment ready to get to work. There are also commitments that by Thursday, buses and small vehicles will be able to travel the road. Mike Rudon for News Five.Email This Story