Fishing Hole Road frustrations boil over
Officials say work has started on access road, causeway next
Work started yesterday on surfacing the access road that motorists will have to use while the Fishing Hole Road Causeway is repaired, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Works Luther Smith said yesterday.
Smith told Grand Bahama News the work on the access road should be completed by Friday.
Following that, the causeway will be closed off again and substantive work will get started, he advised.
“The logic of it is that they are using the access road for a month plus, so it’s better that they have a smooth ride on that so that you have good road on the access road so that the main Fishing Hole Road is resurfaced,” Smith said.
This development came days after frustrations boiled over, over the closure of Fishing Hole Road Causeway and the poor condition of the alternate road, resulting in residents, led by the chief councilor for West Grand Bahama, removing barricades, opening the road to traffic.
“I am ready…I came dressed to be locked up,” said a defiant George “Jimmy” Smith at the causeway site on Wednesday.
The chief councilor, Grand Bahama News learned, did not have the consent of authorities to remove the barricades, although Smith said he made the decision with the support of his council.
“What prompted us to move this morning is when the person in charge of Ministry of Works in Grand Bahama stated in a newscast that Nassau was not communicating with her,” said Smith.
“Not only is Nassau not communicating with her, but they also are not communicating with us.”
George Smith also said West Grand Bahama is deteriorating as it relates to issues that involve the Ministry of Works.
“We are not being heard,” he said.
“Enough is enough. West Grand Bahama District is better than this. We are a great people and we have great power and, today, we are putting forth that power that we have.”
The causeway was closed for repairs on December 28, 2022, following several “slip and slide” accidents on a section of the overpass.
Following consultation with the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA), Luther Smith said previously both entities reached an understating to close the causeway.
“We have an agreement that it will close for a period — I expect two months — for remediation. It is a joint effort of the MOW and GBPA,” he said.
In the interim, motorists were advised to use the lower service road to travel in and out of West Grand Bahama.
However, that route’s surface is now pitted with potholes and motorists complained bitterly about their vehicles being damaged.
Again, Smith said yesterday those issues are being corrected this week.
In a statement on February 9, Troy McIntosh, GBPA’s deputy director and city manager of building and development services, said while the company is aware of residents’ concerns regarding the safety of the bridge, it had engaged MOW to investigate the issue.
He said the company spent $20,000 “in preparation exercises to close the bridge and an additional $5,000 to grade the alternative route”.
As March 1 marked the end of the promised two-month time frame for repairs, the chief councilor removed the barricades giving motorists access to the causeway.
Hours later, MOW issued a statement saying work will begin today.
“The contract for the repairs has been awarded to Bahamas Hot Mix (BHM) Company Ltd.,” the ministry said.
“BHM was chosen as the preferred contractor at this time due to their responsiveness and ability to mobilize immediately, having the available resources to execute the works within the required time frame. The expected duration of work is anticipated to be four to five weeks.
“The paving of the bridge surface is expected to be completed in two to three weeks, and then the service road will be repaired.”
Grand Bahama News spoke to a number of residents who crossed the causeway after it was unofficially reopened.
“It’s overdue,” said Eight Mile Rock resident Vandyke Hepburn.
“The service road that they said we were to use after closing the bridge needs service. People in West Grand Bahama do not deserve this. The government needs to step up to the plate and deal with this.
“I am disappointed in the state this service road is in. All we are hearing is talk and nothing is being done.”
Hepburn was in support of Smith removing the barricades.
He added, “If the police lock him up, they better have a big cell because the whole of West Grand Bahama participating in this protest.”
Another motorist, Paul Wisdom, also applauded Smith.
“We hope that we’ll have others like him to support and stand up for people in this country,” said Wisdom.
Ernest Rigby, a public bus driver, said he has had to replace two tires on his bus since using the service road.
“I think the authorities should have fixed the service road properly before closing the bridge,” said Rigby.
“But Mr. Smith opening the bridge, that is better than us having to deal with the conditions of that side road.”
While residents commended Smith for reopening the causeway, McIntosh, the city manager, objected to the action.
“The Grand Bahama Port Authority Limited was made aware of the reopening of the Fishing Hole Causeway without consultation or approval from government and the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) Limited representatives,” said McIntosh.
“We have formally communicated to the relevant government agencies to express our deep concern for motoring public safety by the reopening of the causeway with no immediate plan in place and without the initial hazardous conditions being repaired.
“The GBPA explicitly states our objection to the reopening and will take immediate and necessary action to protect the safety of motorists that traverse the causeway.”
While McIntosh claimed immediate action will be taken, up to Sunday, motorists continued to use the causeway unhindered.