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$1.5 million Vermont/Francois bridge opens

$1.5 million Vermont/Francois bridge opens

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A newly constructed bridge over the Vermont River has created easier access for residents to travel between two communities in the valley.

The Vermont/Francois bridge was funded through a collaboration between the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines and the Government of the Republic of China (Taiwan). {{more}}While it has been in use for some time, an official opening ceremony was held on Wednesday, this week.

Chief engineer Brent Bailey was first introduced to the project in 2008 when he took up his post in the Ministry of Transport and Works.

In brief remarks, he revealed that his first impression of the project, which was estimated at 1.2 million at the time, was that it was too expensive. However, the then deputy prime minister, Sir Louis Straker, was able to persuade him, after a visit to the site.

“He then pointed out to me in very eloquent description of how a lady has to, when she is going to church … take off her shoes and he showed me the actual stones that they have to cross and he painted a picture in my mind as to what the residents have to experience to go from this community over into Francois and vice versa. I was not sold,” Bailey said.

“He then told me that it’s important because the farmers can go from this side, go up to Francois mountain that has all the agricultural lands and they would get there easier, quicker. I thought about it but honestly, I was not sold. Then he said, what do you think it will cost if we lost a child trying to cross that river and the river came down at the same time? I was sold.” The chief engineer noted that the span of the river was significant and so an extensive amount of work was done during the construction of the bridge. As a result, the total cost of the bridge was $1.5 million.

“$1.5 million is no way close to the cost of the life of one of our citizens,” Bailey declared.

“It is still a community project. It is still important to protect the lives of our citizens, to establish the commerce, to ensure that those lovely ladies don’t have to take their shoes off when going to church. These are important things in the day-to-day lives of our citizens.”

According to Bailey, the design and construction of the Vermont/Francois bridge took approximately five years, with four natural disasters taking place during that period.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, in his feature address, gave credit to Straker and Jomo Thomas, the candidate for South Leeward for the Unity Labour Party, for constantly advocating the completion of the project.

“It could have been said that well, you don’t have to build it. The people would go round so or they could go around the other way, but Louis Straker and Julian and the Government and Jomo say no, we have to spend this money and we have to connect these two sides of what is the same community,” Gonsalves said.

The Prime Minister noted that the bridge was built with the necessary infrastructure to last for a significant period of time and that the Government is dedicated to improving the roadways and infrastructure of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

“I have negotiated and spending over $400 million. I have to do it between now and the next two years!” the Prime Minister declared.

Of this sum, the Prime Minister listed a number of projects for the improvement of roads and infrastructure, totalling close to $330 million.

During his speech, Gonsalves extended an invitation to Thomas to give brief remarks.

“This is an important event. It is an event that joins two communities, the bridging of two communities. This bridge has been long in coming, but today, it is here to serve the people of Vermont and Francois and for this, we must be proud,” Thomas said, while making reference to a constituent who told him that on four different occasions, persons had come to measure the area where the bridge was expected to be built.

Ambassador of the Republic of China (Taiwan) Baushaun Ger congratulated the Government of SVG and those who made the completion of the bridge possible.

“The residents in this region do not have any worry of flooding or whatever when they cross the river,” Ger said.

“Taiwan is very proud to be a partner of St Vincent and the Grenadines over the years in national development and this time we are very proud to be a part of this project. Like the Colonarie bridge, the Rabacca bridge, the Basin Hole bridge and other infrastructural work, the Vermont/Francois bridge also stands as a symbol of strong friendship between our two countries.”

Senator Julian Francis, the Minister of State in the Ministry of Transport and Works, and Penniston resident Harron Soso-Penniston, also spoke briefly at the ceremony.

Sea Operations was the contractor for the building of the Vermont/Francois bridge.(BK)

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