Road repairs will cost at least $5.5 billion, says NWA

Road repairs will cost at least $5.5 billion, says NWA

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, November 27, 2020

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The National Works Agency (NWA) says it's not through tallying the damage to the island's main road network, but its best assessment at this time is that repairs will cost the State at least $5.5 billion.

Half of the sum will go towards removing blockages and initial activities to make corridors drivable, Chief Executive Officer EG Hunter told the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee yesterday.

“We are not pretending that we are reconstructing these roads, and we do acknowledge that the work that we are doing in the initial phase is of a temporary nature designed largely to get people to move about. The question of the permanent solution is something that we will have to tackle as we go along,” he stated.

The agency said in its submission: “Based on our field reports, the damage to the road network has been extensive, and is expected to result in a significant repair bill to the State.”

The NWA gave notice that, given the continued inclement weather, the estimate may increase in coming days, with further damage. It said the figure also does not include the funds that are needed to increase the resiliency of the network to prevent similar damage in the future.

Two hundred and six roads islandwide were severely affected by various rain-related events such as landslides, mud flows, downed trees, washed out bridges, and undermined roadways, the works agency reported.

Hunter stressed that many of the impacted roads were not built with drains. “Drainage has a very noticeable impact on the quality of the roads. If they have drains the roads will last longer,” he said, pointing to the 2013 report of a master drainage study that was done for the island.

He said the bill at the time was about US$1 billion.

“So, if the country wants to make serious inroads with the drainage situation in most of our towns, it's a sizeable expenditure,” he said.

Hunter said also that over the years no serious advances have been made in relocating towns and infrastructure, which are built near shorelines, making them continuously exposed to the ravages of nature. However, he said deliberate plans are now being made for the south coast highway, for example, to move the infrastructure inward.

“This has come out of a recognition that the current location of these towns and roads make them very susceptible. What you want to do is build good roads, maintain the roads, and you also want to make the roads climate-proof, and to a large extent that requires significant relocation,” he explained.

He said four roads remain impassable, including the Gordon Town main road for which a bypass is being constructed. The corridor was one of several in the constituency of St Andrew East Rural that were badly damaged during the recent heavy rains.

“We confess that this is not necessarily the most convenient bypass, but it is the only option we have at this point in time,” Hunter said.

The Rural Agricultural Development Authority has estimated repairs to 57 damaged farm roads at $139 million.


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