A team of government officials survey the site of lower George Street, Port of Spain which has been eroded by a collapsed underground drainage system on December 29, 2021. – PHOTO BY ROGER JACOB
In 2022, the Ministry of Works and Transport has been mandated to improve the condition of roads across the country.
In a sit-down interview with Newsday on Thursday at the ministry’s office, Richmond Street, Port of Spain, Minister Rohan Sinanan said this will be done through a multi-agency approach and will include the ministry, the Ministry of Local Government and the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA).
Sinanan mentioned that apart from limitations brought by the pandemic, WASA leaks continue to be a major hurdle in the ministry’s road rehabilitation efforts.
“Ninety per cent of the challenges with the road network is linked to WASA and their problems with their lines. We have 100 leaks popping up daily on our road network and the rate of WASA repairs is not in keeping with what we would like.
“WASA takes too long to attend to the leaks and when they attend the leaks the amount of damage is done to the formation of the road is much more than should have, which would now require major repairs.”
He was satisfied with the ministry’s procurement system in 2021 but felt its efforts to maintain and repair roads were very poor.
“The ministry got less over the past years… what we would have applied for but we were able to stretch it… I am still not satisfied and we will have to do a lot of work to ensure we maximise our resources… We intend to spend a lot more time and effort on maintenance meaning vegetation control and patching of our roads.” The ministry got $2.8 billion in the 2021/2022 budget, a decrease from its allocation of $3 billion in the 2020/2021 fiscal year.
Aside from issues with WASA, on the side of the ministry, Sinanan said covid19 played a big part in this setback on road repairs in 2021.
In December the ministry, WASA and regional corporations started working on a collaborative approach to road restoration.
Minister of Public Utilities Marvin Gonzales, in an interview with Newsday last week, confirmed WASA is one of the main contributing factors to the state of the road but said, “Any notion that WASA is the only contributor to the state of our road is misleading.”
He said the agency identified its poor response to fix roads after pipeline repairs were done needed to be addressed. He said of 4,000 leaks in TT, his ministry has already fixed 2,000 last year and hoped to have a significant number repaired by the end of January.
Gonzales agreed with the issue of urgent road repairs called for serious collaboration between the ministry, local government and WASA.
“That initiative entails WASA, the ministry and the regional corporation contributing their resources to road restoration, be it equipment, manpower, material. In the first phase, the ministry had purchased a hot mix. This wasn’t only for repairing roads under the ministry, but local government roads, especially potholes that came about from leaks repaired by WASA.
He said with this arrangement WASA was able to use its employees and whatever available equipment along with materials purchased by the ministry to repair roads and reduce the backlog.
Major projects to continue in 2022
In 2021, Sinanan said the ministry noticed a reduction in flooding but had major challenges with an increase in landslides, which he said will also be a focus area in 2022. “What causes the landslip in most instances is water where in some instances a WASA line would have burst and that would have caused the soil to move and in other cases we had intense rainfall.”
Also in 2022, the ministry will focus on the completion of ongoing development projects. These include Valencia to Toco roadway upgrade, Highway to Sangre Grande, Point Fortin Highway, the Cumuto to Manzanilla highway, Toco port, Moruga port and road upgrade project, and the Diego Martin interchange projects.
But despite an increase in construction materials these projects have remained within their budgets, he told Newsday.
And though Sinanan was unable to give a completion date for each of these projects, owning to the uncertainty of the state of the economy as the world battles to control the covid19 virus, he remains optimistic that the San Fernando to Point Fortin highway, Cumuto to Manzanilla highway, the Diego Martin interchange and Valencia to Toco project will be completed by the end of 2022.
“We are hoping to break grounds in the Macoya interchange in 2023 to have work started,” he added.
Lamenting on the challenges brought on by the covid19 pandemic, Sinanan said his ministry had done its best to keep operations and major projects going. But even with its best efforts, covid19 has interfered with its road maintenance and developmental plans.
“We have been having challenges in terms of the amount of money required to keep the new projects and development programme ongoing and to keep the maintenance programme but we have been able to weather all that. I think we remained in a fairly comfortable position in 2021, we didn’t have to cancel any projects at all.”
He said the ministry plans to revisit its operations in 2022 and embrace technology to get the best out of its resources.