Billion-dollar Junction

Billion-dollar Junction

Price tag for behind-schedule St Mary roadwork doubles

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Senior staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

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THE rehabilitation of the Junction main road in St Mary is set to cost just over $1 billion — almost twice the amount originally budgeted.

In fact, the project, which began in November 2017 and should have been completed in January 2019, is more than a year behind schedule and currently has no set completion date.

A Jamaica Observer request to the Access to Information (ATI) Unit regarding the status of the thoroughfare, which links the capital city to the north-eastern end of the island, revealed that an additional $519,994,352.71 has been allocated to supplement the original amount of $597,765,238.18.

The Observer was told that the additional funds were allocated to cover works amounting to $246,794,241.58 and contractual entitlement (prolongation and fluctuation cost) amounting to $273,200,111.13, brought on by “functional and technical issues which arose during the execution of the works”.

The project, being undertaken by Surrey Paving and Aggregate Company Limited, was first announced by Prime Minister Andrew Holness weeks before the October 30, 2017 St Mary South Eastern by-election, evoking strong criticisms from the Opposition People's National Party (PNP).

At that time, Prime Minister Holness had declared that the work of the Government would not be postponed because of the impending election.

At the same time, a news release from the Office of the Prime Minister in September 2017 stated that the Government would be “solely financing the rehabilitation works of the critical Junction corridor”.

That same month, at the signing ceremony for the project, the prime minister declared that the Junction road had effectively selected itself for rehabilitation work.

“We understand that the strategic development of Jamaica is intrinsically linked to our infrastructure development, in particular, our roadways and highways. We are opening people to increased access and opportunities,” Holness said at the Jamaica House function then.

The controversial road project is to widen and realign sections of Junction from Broadgate to Agualta Vale, creating a seven metre-wide, two-lane corridor complete with safety features, including retaining walls and shoulders on both sides of the road.

The Capital A Project is also expected to include major drainage improvement works where the recurrent slippage of the roadway at an area known as Chovey is to be corrected. It is being implemented under Phase One of the larger Toms River to Agualta Vale GOJ (Government of Jamaica) Road Improvement Project.

However, the Observer probe revealed that technical issues described as “unforeseen and unavoidable difficulties” have caused the project to stall.

The National Works Agency (NWA), the entity which has oversight responsibilities for the improved maintenance of the main road network, said these issues are both of a geotechnical and geological nature and include stratification (horizontal and vertical).

It said, too, that the instability of the soil has been impacting the pace of work, noting that “the real possibility of slope failure threatened the roadway and residences”.

The NWA said “hard excavation and the hydrological state of the project”, for example, the movement of sub-surface and surface water, are also posing a problem.

It also suggested that things are needed to enhance the project objectives and effectiveness; for example, the inclusion of sub-surface ducts to accommodate fibre-optic cables.

The delay in the completion of the project is expected to continue to impact small business operators in the area, who, in August 2018, told the Observer that they had seen a decline in sales as a result of the daily closure of the main road.

At that time, business owners had said that the six-hour period for which the road was closed was excessive, as potential customers who traverse the thoroughfare are the main source of income for residents in surrounding communities.

The Observer has learnt that there has been a significant decline in terms of vehicular traffic since the project began.

In the meantime, the NWA said that the Government has, to date, paid some $23 million to four people for buildings owned by them.

Last June, the Observer had reported that several families had been given notice to vacate their homes located in the area, and that at least one family had been left in limbo as a result. At that time, they had not been compensated.

Meanwhile, the agency said while there have been accidents involving motorists due to land slippages, “no cost was incurred by the State as the contractor was liable”.

The NWA said that the project is approximately 75 per cent completed “with significant asphalt paving done. The contractor's focus has now been placed on completing excavation of the Broadgate hillside”.

It said the contractor has an average of 20 personnel on site, including managers, supervisors and administrative staff, along with additional labourers, equipment operators, tradesmen, and traffic control personnel.


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