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Sep 9, 2021

Haulover Bridge: Modern Upgrade for a Historic Crossing

It seems like it has been there forever, and was destined to stay put for decades more, but now the Haulover Bridge on the outskirts of Belize City is getting more than just some retrofitting and repair. The old bridge built in 1949, will be taken down and a new three-span bridge will welcome commuters and visitors alike.  Tonight Marion Ali reports on a thirty-million-dollar project and what the new structure will feature. She also takes a little detour down memory lane with a driver who survived a head-on collision on the bridge years ago.


Marion Ali, Reporting

Over the next twenty-four months, the location where the bridge stands will be busy with construction activity on the new bridge, whose specifications are unique for that location.


Roque Matus

Roque Matus, Director, M&M Engineering

“The Haulover is a very wide river, right. So the bridge has actually three components: it has the main bridge across the river and there are actually two other bridges that are going to be on the land. The reason we’re doing that is because the soil is very poor, right? And if we would just fill an embankment twenty, twenty-five feet up in the sky, it would settle tremendously. So the whole approach to the bridge is actually another bridge, similar to what is done when you’re going in Mexico.”


On the Phone: Lennox Bradley, Chief Engineer, MIDH

“This new replacement bridge will be approximately the same length – just a bit over four hundred and twenty-two feet, but it will be about around twenty-two feet above normal water level, compared to the ten feet that it is right now. So the new bridge will be higher, it will be wider – it will be roughly about forty-eight to forty-nine feet wide, compared to the twenty feet that we have right now. So congestion will not be so much of a problem.”


Over the years, increased traffic and larger vehicles sometimes resulted in problems on the narrow approaches of the bridge. In 1989, businessman Mike Heusner walked away from a serious head-on crash.


Mike Heusner

Mike Heusner, Survived Haulover Wreck

“Just before I got to this end of the bridge, I saw a big truck coming up the highway approaching the bridge, and it looked like it was very big and it was coming very fast. So, I hit the brakes and stopped and as it came up the bridge, it looked like its left front wheel and the bumper were only about a foot or so away from a big cement pillar that used to be at the corner of the bridge. The truck cleared the pillar and it came straight at me and it hit the front end of my car, pushed my car into the upper structure of the high beams on the bridge. A big upright high beam on the bridge came through the trunk of my car, through the back seat and ended up just a few inches behind my head.”


Strangely, Heusner’s grandfather, Dr. Karl Heusner, almost died at almost the same spot back in the early 1900s.


Mike Heusner

“When Dr. Heusner got the first car, he took it out for a trial run on the Northern road, which at the time was just a cart road. No highway was built yet. He came out the Northern road to the Haulover ferry and when he got on the ferry, he made a mistake and instead of stepping on the brake pedal, he stepped on the gas and the car plunged into the river. I think it was about twenty – twenty-four feet deep at that time. His mechanic was Bruce Betson. Mr. Betson swam to the surface and he got up, looked around (repeating) the doctor wasn’t there, so he dived back down to the car and forced the door open and pulled him out. He saved his life.”


Chief Engineer with the Ministry of Infrastructure Development, Lennox Bradley says the latest design was not their original choice for that location, but a limited budget forced them to revisit their options.


On the Phone: Lennox Bradley

“We wanted an anchor bridge – a landmark that would send a strong message to tourists coming from the airport and visiting Belize. It was designed by a foreign engineering firm, Polytechnica, and it costs about fifty-nine point four million Belize dollars, and it was well above the budget that we had for the bridge. And so we had no choice but to go back and redesign. So we had a foreign firm designing the first bridge and then a local firm reviewing the design and coming up with a lower cost design that is satisfactory and satisfies the objectives of the loan agreement and the needs of the country.”


Roque Matus

“It’s called a girder bridge, which means we drive piles, we build the abutments and piers, which are the big posts in layman terms and the big beams and then from each of those set of columns, we are spanning with pre-stressed beams.”


The engineers admit that even the best of structures can become vulnerable when nature’s fury bears down, such as what happened to the Kendall Bridge.


Lennox Bradley

“You are quite right that the Belize River under flood conditions could be a bit worrying, but it’s for that very reason that we have designed the new replacement at the height that we are designing it. And of course we had to look at the hydrology and the hydraulics of the area, including the velocity of the water in the Belize River at that point.”


But while the Belize River can be perilous in a hurricane, Roque Matus, who is the Director for the Contractor, M&M Engineering Company, says that with the best engineering and a prayer for good measure, the bridge should last.


Roque Matus

“We did all the calculations. We ran the analysis through many modules. After we did our proposal, the Government sent it outside to an Italian firm to check all our proposals designs so – like I tell all my friends and so forth – I say we do our very best in engineering and then we pray to God.”


Marion Ali for News Five.


The loan agreement with the OPEC Fund for International Development was for twenty-four million dollars, with the government meeting the remaining balance of around six million to cover the cost of the new bridge. The contractor is M&M Engineering Company, which also constructed the new bridge at Roaring Creek. Minister of Infrastructure Development Julius Espat has indicated that a portion of the current bridge will be relocated temporarily to the Cayo District for use until a new bridge is built in that part of the country.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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