EDITORIAL: Time for Lashley to improve roads
THE NEWS THAT a major road rehabilitation programme will be undertaken across the island this year must have been music to the ears for most Barbadians. It is a promise to which Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley will be held and he must deliver.
Many of the island’s roads are in a sad state of disrepair and others are incomplete, having been under construction or enhancement for an extended period. From St Lucy to St Philip, too many of this island’s roads are in dire need of fixing.
The road repair and upgrade programme has undeniably been affected by the tight money crisis Government has been facing over the past seven years. Unfortunately, this point is perhaps best exemplified by the roadworks on the Warrens to Redman’s Village section of the ABC Highway. It has been left incomplete for far too long. This situation is unfortunately repeated in other parts of the island.
With funding now available from the Inter-American Development Bank and the Development Bank of Latin America, Barbadians will be expecting judicious application of these funds to the proposed road improvement programmes. Their wish would be for roads across the island to be fixed, regardless of the affiliation, ranking or constituency of the political representative. Politics must be kept out of this exercise – and this is not merely wishful thinking.
In the interest of transparency, Minister Lashley should adopt a new approach. Based on the advice and guidance of his technocrats, he and his Chief Technical Officer should tell the public in advance which roads have been chosen for repair or improvement. They should also indicate whether we will continue to have all asphalt finished surfaces or if the country will be moving to concrete roads.
Any road rehabilitation work in the Scotland District should be driven primarily by engineering considerations, given all of the environmental challenges likely in that part of the island. Realistic decisions sensitive to the economics of the situation must be paramount and over and above emotion. Simply stated, it will make no sense throwing good money behind bad projects in that area. But solutions will have to be found to ensure effective transportation in that region.
The policymakers, Mr Lashley and the team in his ministry must establish performance standards for all the projects being undertaken. In all that is done, roadways must also be made safe and better for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians, including those with disabilities. We must not build or rehabilitate our roads such as Spring Garden Highway and totally ignore the needs of the pedestrians.
The improvement of our road network is a good way to spend public finances since an efficient transportation infrastructure is important to the island’s socio-economic development. Barbadians have been long-suffering and frustrated with poor road infrastructure. Mr Lashley must now deliver in a timely manner.