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EDITORIAL: Let’s get on with the road paving, please


EDITORIAL: Let’s get on with the road paving, please

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IT’S TIME TO GET those road paving machines going, Mr Minister.

Given the ever-deteriorating state of our public roads, including the major highways, we do not believe it is possible for Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley and officials of his ministry to claim they don’t recognise the extent of the problem we face, and the fact that each day it gets worse.

That being the case, we expect to see some kind of road paving and patching blitz across the length of the country. We do not need an engineer to convince us that if action is not taken very soon, correcting the problem will become exponentially more expensive – and the public coffers being still starved for funds, we need to behave prudently.

There is hardly a road in this country, even some that have been paved in recent times, that is not filled with sizeable potholes or showing serious evidence of wear and tear, compounded by the heavy and frequent downpours.

This state of affairs points to serious deficiencies in the way we maintain our road network. For one, we cannot pave a road, then do no maintenance for 25 years and not expect what we are seeing. The Ronald Mapp Highway, from Mile-And-A-Quarter in St Peter to Warrens in St Michael, was started more than three decades ago by then Prime Minister Tom Adams and, except for a 200-metre stretch at Bakers, this road has not been touched since then. It is so bad today that we could market it to any of the world’s automobile builders as a testing strip for suspensions.

The ABC Highway was also started by Adams, and the state of the surface between Warrens and the Black Rock end of the Spring Garden Highway betrays its age. In even worse condition would be two of the island’s most heavily used roads, Highway 1 and Highway 7. There are more ruts, holes, sunken manhole or drain covers and generally uneven surfaces that put everyone, motorist and pedestrian, at risk.

And we don’t understand why, based on the results we are seeing, the Ministry of Transport and Works (MTW) maintains a network of depots, supposedly to look after our roads. Maybe they are inadequately staffed and poorly provisioned, but whatever the reason, the state of the roads does not suggest this system gives value for money in 2016.

There is an MTW depot at Bagatelle, St Thomas, but still there are enough huge potholes between Lester Vaughan School and Hopewell on Highway 2 to ruin the suspensions of even the most toughly-built vehicles. There is an MTW depot at Haggatts in St Andrew to serve that parish as well as St Joseph, but still Coggins Hill in St Andrew resembles the Bathsheba coastline during a storm – and driving up or down it can be just as challenging.

Yes, ours is a country with limited financial resources and we can’t afford to repave highways as frequently as they do in some developed countries, but not touching a road for 25 or 30 years does not make sense. Our system can’t be viewed as anything but deficient when a resident can see water settle on a particular spot for months, then watch the surface crack and fall apart under the constant traffic, and over a period of several weeks engulf almost the whole width of the road. Surely included in the mandate of someone responsible for a particular geographical area must be the routine monitoring of the roads in that area.

Additionally, MTW must enforce its own rules and ensure that utility companies such as the Barbados Water Authority stop contributing to the problem. We accept that from time to time utility companies will have to break the road surface, but the problems that arise afterward often result from the poor quality of reinstatement of that surface.

The evidence abounds: MTW paves a few kilometres of roadway and in a short while, all through the village is filled with potholes, while for decades outside of the populated areas the surface remains silky smooth. Every last one of those ruts today came from a surface that was broken repeatedly by a utility company.

The quality of our roads is costing motorists, many of whom can’t afford it, dearly, and it is time for those responsible to do better. The poor or non-existent maintenance is costing all taxpayers.