Solomon Hochoy Highway gets extra lanes in Central

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

A crew from the Ministry of Works and Transport continues construction of additional lanes to the Solomon Hochoy Highway in Chaguanas on Sunday. – Photo by Angelo Marcelle

THE Ministry of Works and Transport has embarked on a new initiative to use the median between the north- and south-bound lanes of the Sir Solomon Hochoy Highway to add lanes as part of its traffic-alleviation programme.

The project, which will see three instead of two lanes on each side of the highway, is expected to be completed within the next four months, weather permitting. It has a $65 million cost attached for two packages of works awarded.

The first, which has already started from Chaguanas to Brentwood Mall, is being undertaken by Junior Sammy Construction. On completion of that package, Seeraram Brothers will continue with the second leg from Brentwood Mall to the Chase Village Interchange.

In the specified areas, one lane has already been eliminated to undertake the roadworks, but the shoulder has been converted into a lane.

Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan visited the site on Sunday to view the progress of the work already done. He advised road users to suffer the inconvenience for a bit, promising at the end of the project, they would be very happy, as time and money would be saved.

Sinanan said the intention was to take the additional lane all the way to and from San Fernando and, in the process, address road rehabilitation, reconfiguration of traffic lanes and other ancillary works.

A crew from the Ministry of Works and Transport continues construction of additional lanes to the Solomon Hochoy Highway in Chaguanas on Sunday. -Photo by Angelo Marcelle

Sinanan said the ministry has earmarked 11 projects, including the one he visited on Sunday, to ensure proper flow of traffic throughout the country. The intention is to spend no more than half an hour getting from one town to the next.

The bottlenecks, he observed, have to do with south- and central-bound traffic coming off four lanes from El Socorro, into three lanes from Grand Bazaar and two lanes to San Fernando.

He said the design, using the median instead of acquiring land at an additional cost has been in the making for a long time. With that initiative, he said, not only will time be shaved off the journey, but there will be financial savings as well.

In the past, he explained, the median needed maintenance as well as the costly and constant repair of cable barriers which served as a preventative measure against vehicles from one lane crossing into the opposite lane, resulting in major accidents and even fatalities.

The new design, he said, would do away with the cable barriers and replace them with concrete Jersey barriers which were more suitable for the highway.

Hayden Phillips, director of the Programme For Upgrading Roads Efficiency Unit (PURE) said the Jersey barriers, which are installed in the East-West Corridor, are the preferred barrier type for highways. He said the shape of Jersey barriers allowed for cars to right themselves if they ran off the road and into the barrier.

Sinanan said while cable barriers were an option, “It is very expensive and seems not to be working for us. Once you touch the cable barriers it drops (loses its height and structure) for about 100-200 metres, and you find this happening all the time. That is why it is so difficult to maintain.

“I remember coming into office and there was a bill for repair of cable barriers for about $20 million.

“We would have spent a lot of money on cable barriers and if you drive down the highway it is almost nonexistent, because you spend money on it tonight, and somebody pass and touch it and the entire things drops. It’s a lot of money to keep repairing it.

“Yes, there is a cost to this project, but there is a benefit to this in terms of the money we save from the maintenance of the vegetation and the cable barriers.

“We can’t build ourselves out of traffic jams, we can’t continue to build more highways and more roads, but there are certain things we can improve on the existing network and this is one of them.”