Residents of East Grand Bahama and motorists traveling to and from the eastern settlements are concerned and frustrated about continuing delays and closures due to the restorative construction of the Casuarina Bridge which started late last year.
On November 19, 2021, All Bahamas Construction Ltd. (ABC) was awarded the full construction contract for the Casuarina Bridge and work began three days later.
This led to the first closure of the structure from November 30 to December 2 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.
However, users of the bridge say there have been multiple lane closures and at least one other full closure of the bridge since then with no public advertisement or forewarning, forcing unaware residents and commuters to reroute to Sir Jack Hayward Bridge, which is the only other access point to East Grand Bahama.
Shakara Adderley of First Class Tours expressed dismay at having to detour with passengers she was taking to McClean’s Town on June 24.
“I was quite shocked that the bridge was completely closed,” Adderley said.
“Usually, there is at least one lane opened but there were cones blocking the entrance and detour signs.
“It was extremely inconvenient because I had to turn around, drive back down the highway to Fortune Bay Drive, just to access the new bridge.” ‘
She continued, “Thankfully, I was able to make contact with the boat captain to let him know that we were a bit behind schedule or the people I was transporting may have missed their ferry.”
East End resident Maria Jones said she is annoyed that the restoration is taking so long and she avoids using Casuarina Bridge altogether.
“At one point,” she explained, “people were not able to pass on that bridge at all. Then, they blocked both left lanes and we had to use just one side of the bridge to go both ways.
“It’s annoying and frustrating driving that route not knowing if it will be opened or closed and when the one lane is opened, traffic is terrible sometimes in the morning, so I just use the other bridge now.”
In addition to the inconvenience, some people are also concerned about safety.
Jones said, “It is terrifying driving over the bridge with all of the diversions and cones in the road. I was afraid that someone would run into my car because the way it is set up is confusing.”
Member of Parliament for East Grand Bahama Kwasi Thompson said, “We have expressed the concerns on behalf of the residents of East Grand Bahama and have been informed by the development company that the bridge is still under repair.
“They (motorists) have the use of one lane, and that has obviously affected traffic. However, safety must be the main priority, and so we must ensure that the bridge work continues to completion.”
Thompson continued, “We are obviously very concerned with the safety of all of our East Grand Bahama residents.
“I have spoken to the principals of the development company to encourage them to work as soon as possible, and as soon as safely possibly, to ensure that both lanes are reopened. They have indicated to me that they are working as soon as possible to have both lanes opened and to have the work completed.”
With the third anniversary of Hurricane Dorian approaching, residents are also hoping that the bridge is repaired and fully functioning soon.
Adderly noted, “It has been three years since Dorian passed. They started working on this bridge from last year. Why is it taking so long? God forbid another storm happens, and then who knows how much longer before the bridge is fixed again.”
Lucaya Service Company Limited (LUSCO), a subsidiary of Bahamas Development Company Limited (DEVCO), which is in charge of the restoration, said that the work was necessary to repair wear and tear as well as the damage caused by the high winds and storm surge of Hurricane Dorian.
According to Charisse Brown, chief executive officer and senior legal counsel at LUSCO, significant progress has been made since January, including completion of seawall construction design, clearing and grubbing of the site, removal of large boulders, construction of the embankments to about 50 percent and clearing to begin seawall construction.
“It is expected that much of the remaining work will be completed over the next four months,” Brown said.