Both the East Bank and East Coast four-lane extension projects which are currently ongoing ought to be completed by June of 2014, according to the Work Ministry’s Manager of Roads and Bridges Department, Ron Rahaman.
Works to add an additional two lanes to the East Coast Demerara Highway got underway earlier this year even though the contracts for the works were awarded last March. This portion of the highway was subdivided into six lots, and various contracting firms were given the responsibility of carrying out the necessary works in the respective lots.
Lots One, Two and Five are the responsibility of Dipcon Engineering Services Ltd, although Falcon Engineering Services was initially tasked with Lot One. However, Falcon’s $468 million contract was terminated after engineers from the Works Ministry found that the contracting firm was behind schedule and was allegedly carrying out substandard work. Subsequently, the contract for Lot One was handed to Dipcon to complete at a new cost of $463 million. Falcon has since taken the Works Ministry to court for money which it claims it is owed and the matter has not yet been resolved.
The first lot stretches from Better Hope to Montrose while the second runs from Montrose to Triumph. Lot Five, which was awarded to Dipcon at a cost of $328 million, stretches from Triumph to Mon Repos.
Lot Three, which is from La Bonne Intention to Beterverwagting, was contracted to Courtney Benn Contracting Services at a cost of $349 million while Lot Four, from Beterverwagting to Triumph was awarded to Compustruct Contracting Services at a cost of $322 million. The sixth and final lot, which stretches from Mon Repos to De Endragt was awarded to Colin Talbott Contracting Services at a cost of $345 million.
Despite the fact that all of the contracting firms only commenced works this year, Rahaman says they are expected to meet their contractual obligations and complete work on the lots by June of next year.
Aside from the late start, residents along the coast have expressed several grievances with the ongoing works. Vendors from the Mon Repos Market in particular have made public their displeasure at the fact that the extra lanes are expected to run through the area where their market tarmac currently sits.
Recently, Local Government Minister Ganga Persaud said the ministry was taking steps to address the concerns of the vendors. He said Norman Whittaker, Minister within the Local Government Ministry, has been meeting with the vendors, and expressed optimism that the ministry and the vendors will be able to reach a mutually acceptable decision in an upcoming meeting.
Meanwhile, works to extend the East Bank Highway are moving apace, even though none of the lots along the bank had surpassed 35% completion two weeks ago. Like the format on the East Coast, the areas along the East Bank Highway have been divided into lots and awarded to varying contractors. Lot One runs from the National Stadium at Providence to the Water Treatment Plant in Covent Garden and was awarded to Dipcon Engineering Services. General Earth Movers in association with GIACO Construction was awarded Lot Two, which stretches from Covent Garden to Little Diamond, while Lot Three, which stretches from Little Diamond to Diamond Intersection was awarded to BK. Two weeks ago Rahaman said that the first and third lots, were 30% and 15% complete, respectively, while the second lot was around 35% complete.
The low completion rates were said to be the result of issues relating to identifying and relocating GT&T, GPL and GWI infrastructure. According to Rahaman, most of the issues regarding GPL and GT&T have been resolved, and he said that efforts are being made to resolve the remaining GWI issues.
These, and other issues have led to setbacks which have begun to annoy residents living along the East Bank. The contracts to complete these works were signed since 2011 and the extension was expected to be completed within 18 months of the date the contracts were signed. The issues included the need for additional funds, as the cost estimated by the contracting firms for the removal of infrastructure was less then the amount estimated by the utiltity companies. The additional amounts were sourced from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
Several shopkeepers in Diamond, when visited by Stabroek News said that the dust they were forced to deal with on a 24-hour basis is unbearable. One man said that he is forced to clean each item in his shop daily, or every two days, while another woman showed this reporter thick layers of dust which she says covers her items every day.
Another resident said he was concerned that the road will be brought too close to his house. The man, who asked that his name not be mentioned, said that he has witnessed many instances of reckless driving during the time he has resided along the highway. He said that on Sundays in particular, persons moving to and from the creek or races speed along the highway. On several occasions he said, these acts of reckless driving have resulted in accidents. One time, he shared, he was almost the victim.
Pondering on what the future held, the man asked, “If that does happen now wha gon happen when they bring this ting til in hey bai?”
Many residents were also worried about having their concrete bridges broken to allow the excavation of a drain which is to be built on the western side of the highway.
One man, who operates a tyre shop in Little Diamond, said that the prospect of having his bridge broken is expecially troubling since his clients are required to drive into his yard to have their tyres looked after or changed. This, he said, cannot be done on the side of the road in front of his house because a “No Parking” sign was placed in front of his residence when the extension commenced.
Several of the man’s employees, pointing to the areas marked on the bridge, said that they hope the contractor will leave unbroken a part of the bridge large enough for vehicles to get into the yard when they finally break the bridge.
Despite the slow pace of works to this end of the highway though, 70%-75% of a separate highway extension project in Timehri has already been completed. This set of works, contracted out to BK required the overlaying of the section of road at a cost of US$1.6 million, as well as the construction of an additional two lanes of road which will end at the Timehri Police Station. The extension is being done at a cost of $618 million. In addition, several street lights were to be installed, and a sidewalk constructed.
When Stabroek News visited the site of the works, a significant portion of the newly constructed lanes were already covered in asphalt, and the street lights were also installed. Major works however, were still being conducted on a section of the road where tubing for a drainage system had to be run across the highway. This aspect was said to be about 90% complete.
This work, Rahaman explained, which is moving quickly along, was stalled at one point to facilitate the relocation of GT&T cables.