Causeway labelled an insult to Fabian dead
A man whose sister was killed in Hurricane Fabian ten years ago today claims Government's failure to build a new Causeway is an “insult” to those killed on the bridge.
A concept design for a new bridge has been developed, but ten years after the deadly storm, work on a new bridge has yet to begin.
Chaplain Kevin Santucci, whose sister Gladys Saunders was one of four people who died in the storm, said: “It is an insult to the lives of those who passed away on the bridge.
“We have spent thousands of dollars on [other] areas, when we should have spent on the safety of hundreds of people who have to utilise that bridge on a daily basis, as well as visitors. We are putting their lives in jeopardy, coming across a makeshift bridge [for] ten years.
“I'm not here pointing fingers. I'm talking about establishing something as a memorial proper that is also a safety mechanism. We have to look at the whole structure and ask if it's something we are really satisfied with.
“The chapter is not closed until that bridge is fixed. We need to close the chapter fully.”
He said the fact the Causeway was closed during high winds was an indicator that work needed to be done to replace the bridge, not only as an issue of public safety but to prevent the disruption of daily life should another storm strike.
“We haven't really put any muscle and mind into really defining what we would like to see in the picture in terms of a more stable structure for that bridge,” he said. “If a storm should come today, that bridge would crumble again.
“Lives will be put in jeopardy. Lives will also be stopped, as people have to stop their daily travel if winds hit 50 knots. At 50 knots the bridge has to be closed. That tells you how temperamental that bridge is.”
Mr Santucci said he realised the cost of such a construction project could be great, but claimed Government could find financial support.
“I know people would be willing to give towards such a project,” he said. “Outsiders would be willing to give to that project because everyone uses that bridge. I think we have skilled persons here. Everyone would benefit by it. I think people need to think what they can do.”
Monica Pacheco, who lost her husband Manuel Pacheco on the Causeway during the storm, said Government had done a poor job in restoring the bridge, saying: “They didn't remove any of the rubble that fell into the water and it seems like it's sinking. It's dipping.”
Former Premier Alex Scott told The Royal Gazette that during his administration he spoke with HSBC Bank about the erection of a new bridge.
“There was an agreement in principle that the bank would work with us,” he said. “The review that was done as to the status of the Causeway, as it existed after Fabian, that was about $200,000, that was paid by HSBC, but they had committed to providing a turnkey operation.
“They would find the funding, and the method by which they were going to find the funding was through identifying a contractor that would put in a new bridge, the contractor would fund it, and the Bermuda Government would repay them over time by a toll based on the usage of the Causeway.
“For the two or three years after Fabian we worked out the details, but once events overtook myself, and there was another Premier in place, I'm not really sure what happened to that proposal.”
He said he was disappointed the initiative never moved forward as the new bridge could have been in place by now.
“Our thoughts were always with those who lost their family members, and that's why it was a priority to put a stable infrastructure in place and I'm disappointed we didn't do it,” he said.
In 2009, Government announced it would move ahead with a public/private partnership to construct a new bridge with a preliminary estimated cost of $90 million.
Asked for an update on the Causeway, a Public Works spokesman told The Royal Gazette: “A concept design has been developed for the Causeway but approval, funding, and detailed design will be required before construction can commence.”
The spokesman said the Ministry would closely monitor the Causeway before and after severe storms, and would continue to close the Causeway when sustained winds were above storm force, or gusts reached hurricane force.