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EXCLUSIVE: Leaked report warns of ‘catastrophic failure’ if Swing and Belcan Bridges are not replaced/repaired

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Posted: Thursday, July 14, 2022. 3:41 pm CST.

By BBN Staff: A leaked ‘Under Deck Inspection’ of bridges in Belize City conducted by the Project Execution Unit of the Ministry of Infrastructure Development and Housing reports that the Belize City Swing Bridge, as well as the Belcan Bridge, are recommended for replacement and/or repair.

The report warns that with regard to the Swing Bridge “heavy traffic including public bus transportation ceases using this bridge” due to degraded structural members deteriorated to the point that they are no longer able to safely sustain their design loading even though there is not a complete failure or collapse.

The report notes that the oldest of all 3 bridges in Belize City; the Swing Bridge, built in 1922 making it now 100 years old; is showing signs of degradation. The report notes that parts of the bridge’s system including the “steel supporting ring, rollers, loading pin, and gears show severe signs of rust spalling, causing loss of structural thickness.”

The report says it’s doubtful the gears could be made to work again and even if possible, deterioration might make the mechanism less efficient. The bridge’s beams and girders also show signs of severe rusting and spalling, according to inspectors. Inspectors concluded that the historic Swing Bridge has “reached the end of its natural service life and should be replaced.”

The Belcan Bridge, which has a similar swing bridge foundation to the Swing Bridge, has suffered crushing and spalling to parts of the concrete beams that support the bridge. This has left the reinforced steel exposed in some areas. The report notes that “this is a loss of bearing capacity that, if unaddressed, may lead to catastrophic failure.” Other parts of the bridge remain in relatively good condition so the inspectors have recommended the Belcan Bridge for repair or replacement.

“If the two piers are not replaced, a complete failure may occur, in which the integrity of the superstructure and deck surface may be compromised,” the report said.

The BelChina Bridge, meanwhile, was determined to still be in relatively good shape and inspectors have recommended only routine maintenance in the form of cleaning the abutments and pier interface. Inspectors also recommended the upgrading of bridge lighting.

 

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