The governments of Belize and the United Kingdom, along with the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) on Tuesday launched the Coastal Highway Upgrading in La Democracia, Belize.
At present, the unpaved roadway traverses mostly low-lying terrain and has poor drainage. As a result, the corridor is impassable at certain times of the year, with climate change increasing the risk of flooding in the area.
“The Coastal Highway Upgrading will improve access to social services and economic opportunities for 1,700 residents along the road while incorporating enhanced safety for 2,500 drivers and passengers every day, in addition to vulnerable pedestrians and cyclists,” CDB Director of Projects Daniel Best said.
“A paved and raised road with improved bridges and better drainage will make the corridor more climate-resilient and reduce significantly time lost through road closures due to flooding,” he added.
The 59-kilometre (km) upgraded Coastal Highway, whick links the George Price Highway to the Hummingbird Highway, will reduce travel distance by 45 km and journey times by more than an hour between the northern and southern districts of Belize.
“As our largest single project in Belize, the Coastal Highway Upgrading will be transformative — significantly improving access between Belize City and the south, to essential services, such as health and education.”— Claire Evans, British high commissioner for Belize
For the project the CDB provided US$36.6 million in loan; the Government of the United Kingdom, through the CDB-administered United Kingdom Caribbean Infrastructure Fund, gave a £26.05 million (about US$34 million) grant; and the Government of Belize contributed US$8.6 million.
Claire Evans, British high commissioner for Belize, noted, “Our support to the Coastal Highway Upgrading is a very tangible demonstration of the UK’s commitment to Belize — a key Commonwealth partner for Global Britain. As our largest single project in Belize, the Coastal Highway Upgrading will be transformative — significantly improving access between Belize City and the south, to essential services, such as health and education.”
Communities located along the coastal road suffer from poor road conditions. Residents in the nearest settlements, namely La Democracia, Gales Point, Mullins River, and Hope Creek will get better access to services such as health, education, and public transport, as well as increased opportunities for livelihoods and employment.