3rd deadline extension granted on Junction main road
This photo taken in August 2018shows rehabilitation work beingdone on the Junction main road.(Photo: Joseph Wellington)

The Government has granted the contractor handling the first phase of rehabilitation of Junction main road a third extension on its deadline to complete the billion-dollar project.

On Tuesday the National Works Agency (NWA) said the rehabilitation, which started on November 6, 2017, was 96 per cent finished, noting that the $1.117-billion contract was revised up from $597.7 million. The contractor, Surrey Paving and Aggregate Limited, has so far been paid $989.7 million.

Completion of the project, which is running four years behind its original schedule, has now been pushed to next month. The previous extension ran to the end of December 2021.

In a submission intended for the November 24 meeting of Parliament's Infrastructure and Physical Development Committee, which was postponed, the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation said the contractors' rate of production was unacceptably low, and that the NWA had indicated to the contractor that, “failure to significantly increase the rate of production in November 2021 will result in immediate steps being taken under the contract to close out the project. Consequently, the outstanding works may be completed by another contractor using the balance of funds under the contract”.

The ministry was not present at Tuesday's meeting, and no mention was made of this ultimatum, but NWA boss E G Hunter said it was easier to labour on with the contract than to try to terminate it.

Hunter stressed that if there are delays caused by the owner of a contract the contractor is compensated by way of a claim, and that the contract also provides a remedy if the situation is in the reverse.

Attributing the prolonged delays to geotechnical issues, he said: “A lot of the challenges we have had on this contract are directly related to the capability and capacity of the contractor to deliver. It has been said: Why don't you take away the contract from the contractor? [But] the truth is that, in practice, it is very difficult to terminate a contract. It is more expedient to try and drag the contractor across the finish line, which is what we are doing. The contractor has engaged a number of subcontractors to complete the outstanding works.”

At the same time, he said the current status of the work “represents the best position that we've ever been in, in respect of this job. The works that remain are what might be considered peripheral to the substance of the contract. None of these works which remain affects the functionality of the corridor”, he added.

The Junction main road runs from Stony Hill, St Andrew, to Agualta Vale, St Mary. The section from Stony Hill to Tom's River was previously rehabilitated by the NWA. Agualta Vale to Broadgate is the 4.8-kilometre corridor being rehabilitated by Surrey Paving and Aggregate.

The contract for phase two (Broadgate to Tom's River) has not yet been awarded.

BY ALPHEA SUMNER Senior staff reporter saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

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