Sookhai: Cable barriers on highways to be replaced

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Minister in the Ministry of Works Richie Sookhai – File photo

MINISTER in the Works and Transport Minister Richie Sookhai says the ministry is undertaking a phased removal of cable barriers along highways.

They will be replaced by guard rails.

He was responding to a question in the House of Representatives about the death of Azizah Mohammed in an accident along the Solomon Hochoy Highway near Gasparillo on April 8.

Mohammed, 38, is reported to have lost control of her vehicle and crashed in the area.

After extending condolences to Mohammed’s family, Sookhai said the ministry, through its highways division, places a high priority on road-user safety.

“The ministry has developed and is currently implementing its median barrier programme to be executed over a three-year period to remove all cable barriers and replace them with guard rails.”

He said phase one of the programme consists of three packages

Package one entails installing guard rails on the Uriah Butler Highway in Caroni.

Sookhai said they will be 5.2 kilometres long and the work will be completed in September.

Package two will see 8.34 km of guard rails installed along the Solomon Hochoy Highway in Caroni. This work is also expected to be completed in September.

The third package involves 12.62 km of guard rails along the Solomon Hochoy Highway in Victoria West, expected to be finished in October.

Sookhai added that all told, the programme will see the installation of 26.2 kilometres along the Uriah Butler and Solomon Hochoy Highways.

“The packages were advertised by an open tender in order to ensure competitiveness and value for money.”

He said the packages are in the tender phase in accordance with public procurement legislation.

Sookhai estimated the work to replace cable barriers in these areas should begin in June.

UNC MP David Lee asked, “Are you saying to this country that you are doing away with cable barriers along the Uriah Butler Highway by replacing all cable barriers with guard rails?”

Sookhai replied, “The maintenance of cable barriers continues to pose a significant challenge to the ministry. There are several areas where large sections of the barriers have been damaged by impacts (by vehicles).”

The ministry, he continued, believes cable barriers are not the best solution to reducing traffic accidents along highways.

Sookhai reminded MPs this was indicated in a reply to a previous question in the House.

“So the ministry has looked at the more sustainable initiative, which is by implementing guard rails.”

Lee claimed cable barriers were better able to resist vehicular impacts than guard rails.

“Why are you doing away with the cable barriers along the highway?” he asked.

Sookhai said after the ministry evaluated the ability of cable barriers to withstand impacts, it was discovered that “it would be a lot more efficient to be able to implement the guard rails, as it will ensure the maintenance of safety for road connectivity and road users…at all times.”

He added the ministry did a study on this “and it came back to us the guard rails are the method to be used by the ministry.”

Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George had difficulty determining what question on this issue Couva North MP Ravi Ratiram was trying to ask Sookhai, as Ratiram read something from his cell phone while trying repeatedly to frame his question.

She reminded Ratiram that under the standing orders he had only 15 seconds to ask his questioni.

While Ratiram tried to base his question on a comment by Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan last October, Annisette-George did not appear satisfied that he was doing this correctly.

She told him, “I am really lost in the question to even allow it.”

She advised Ratiram to put his question very succinctly so Sookhai would understand it.

Ratiram asked how many metres of cable barriers had been repaired over the last one-four years.

“Whatever is convenient to you,” Ratiram told Sookhai.

Annisette-George ruled Ratiram’s question out of order, based on the earlier response by Sookhai and subsquent questions raised by Lee.

Lee then asked Sookhai, “Are you saying to this country that it is a cheaper option to use guard rails than cable barriers for the safety of our citizens on the highway?”

Sookhai replied, “I never said that, and yes, we did the evaluation.”