Belize City Council considers new toll freeway into City

The adage about “progress brings problems” can be applied to the ongoing renovation of streets across the Old Capital. Even as the Council claims credit for concreting 53 streets and counting and upgrading a total of 90, the long-standing traffic lights at the corner of Central American Boulevard and Mahogany Street have gone without being fixed. Mayor Darrell Bradley says the Council may turn to a new system to address the issue.
Darrell Bradley – Belize City Mayor:  
vlcsnap-2013-03-05-18h36m20s132One of the things with the traffic light, I personally think that it’s a good system, but I don’t think traffic lights is a good fit for Belize City, because when you look at traffic lights, it’s not a traffic light, it’s a traffic system, and we don’t have the system to support traffic lights. It’s very expensive to maintain.  The parts are not obtainable in Belize City.  So I favour the roundabout, and actually when the Central American Boulevard is upgraded there is plans for a roundabout in that very vicinity. We’ve been trying to source the part form the traffic lights, so that we can repair it.  Every single traffic light that’s in Belize City has malfunctioned at some point, and when you have a roundabout it’s a far easier thing to operate, and it’s far less maintenance.  So my personal view is that you are likely going to see additional problems with more traffic lights, and we’re trying to move away from that system, until we can have a full system of traffic lights, all along streets in Belize City, so that that system would work.

Complaints have also been made that Belize City’s three major bridges – the Swing Bridge, Belchina and Belcan Bridges are not being routinely swung and in particular the Belcan, which links the busy San Cas intersection banking the Northern Highway and Freetown Road with Central American Boulevard. The Mayor said he was not aware of the problem but said he would investigate.

Darrell Bradley – Belize City Mayor:  
Of course the swinging of the bridge is our responsibility, and that’s a concern that has not been brought to my attention.  [It’s] something that I will look into.  We do have regular scheduled swinging of the bridges, and it’s something that I’ll have to investigate.  Residents could write in.  We have scheduled swings, but if there’s special occasions, they could write in and we charge a nominal fee for that.  We try to accommodate as much as possible, but that’s a concern that I haven’t heard, but I’ll have to look into it.

The Northern or Philip Goldson Highway is the main artery out of the City to the North and City Hall has already made announcements about concreting it and charging an inbound toll for continued maintenance. Today Mayor Darrel Bradley gave further details of the plan saying it will attract separate financing from the Municipal Bond being used to do 100 streets in the City by year’s end.

Darrell Bradley – Belize City Mayor:
That will not be out of the Municipal Bond. The Municipal Bond will focus us to be able to touch a hundred streets by December.  There’s already been a budget that’s been identified for that. We’ve identified the streets, and we’re going by that timetable.  We are looking at other finance vehicles that will be able to fund this project.  One of the things, and it’s only in its very preliminary stage, we’ve already completed the research for it, is that we would want to toll the Northern Highway.  There’s provision in our law that provides for the tolling of streets, and we’re not moving ahead with that until we have started substantial work on the Northern Highway.  That’s a very sustainable finance vehicle to ensure that we could pay for that project, together with many other projects. Our manifesto talked about a commuter tax.  It didn’t specify what form that tax would have been, but what we’re looking at is having an in-bound toll.  So people who come from the north of Belize City, who don’t pay property taxes, or they don’t license their vehicles in the City, but they use our services, they then will be caught by that toll, because it’s only going to be inbound.  We will give residents of Belize City a reprieve, because they won’t pay it when they drive out of the City.  

And the Mayor contends that the toll is not intended to punish persons living immediately out of the City who work in it, but to extend service to all.

Darrell Bradley – Belize City Mayor:
The toll is a very modest toll.  We’re looking at something like one dollar in-bound for the regular type vehicles.  You’re value is that you will get an “A class” road.  Part of our research looked at the loss of productivity.  It takes somebody right now now one hour, at certain times in the morning, to drive from Ladyville to the centre of Belize City.  We have tracked that there are 4,800 people who use that road every single morning. That’s 4,800 hours of labour we loose, by  having people just sit in their cars.  That’s a loss reflected on our GDP, and it’s a loss of productivity.  If we were to improve the road and have a nominal toll on it, we could reclaim that, and we suspect that we’ll be able to shorten the time to about 20 minutes.

No concrete dates have been set for the announced concreting.

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