East Coast road contractor given one week to remedy traffic congestion after complaints

A section of the Montrose, East Coast Public Road, where traffic is facilitated by one lane. A growing line of traffic can be seen.

Following continuing complaints by motorists and residents about major traffic congestion due to the ongoing East Coast road expansion project, the Ministry of Public Infra-structure says it has instructed the contractor to remedy all issues that have been raised within a week.

Daily traffic congestion during peak hours and dust pollution caused by the ongoing works are among the complaints by road users about the US$46,995,941.34 East Coast Road Widening and Improvement Project, which is being undertaken from Better Hope to Belfield by Chinese firm China Railway First Group Guyana Co. Ltd.

“Every day is like an adventure, a bad one, because you never know what you’re going to meet up in the line and how long you’re going to spend. Sometimes you spend more than 30 minutes to move from one village to the next and other times you spend longer. From the moment traffic reach by Better Hope there, it does slow down significantly,” a resident of Mon Repos, Suresh Narine, who uses the road more than three times per day, told Stabroek News yesterday.

Another section of the Montrose East Coast Public Road with a growing line of traffic.

When this publication inspected the works yesterday, it was observed that from Better Hope to Felicity, the section where the more comprehensive works are being done, the flow of traffic has slowed to a snail’s pace.

This is so because the company is currently carrying out major works to the middle of the thoroughfare, resulting in traffic being diverted along two unfinished makeshift roads on the north and south of the site of the works. As a result, motorists are forced to reduce their speed significantly in order to carefully navigate. The traffic eventually merges into one lane around Montrose, where the flow slows further.

There have also been complaints about dust affecting households.

The ministry yesterday explained that under a US$2,310,899 contract, international consultancy firm Sheladia Associates Inc. in association with E&A Consultants is responsible for the supervision of all works and to ensure that there is compliance with the traffic and environmental management plans.

In a press release responding to a report in the Kaieteur News, the ministry said that both it and the consultants have engaged the contractor for the traffic and environmental management plan to be adhered to. The release explained that a safety and environment audit was completed a few days ago and the pressing issues that are affecting the residents and commuters were recorded and the contractor has since been instructed to remedy them within a week.

The release also explained that one of the remedies is for there to be more trained flagmen regulate the traffic flow while materials are being offloaded on site. “Thus, trucks will not offload materials during the peak period in the mornings and afternoons,” it said, while noting that in order to have commuters out of the construction zone as quickly as possible and to alleviate the congestion, the contractor has been training more flagmen.

“Because they does barely got police on the road monitoring the traffic, a whole set of stupidness does happen. Them bus drivers and truck drivers does feel like they own the road. They don’t even want join the line sometimes and does drive up on the side and bully you and that does cause even more confusion,” another driver, who identified himself as Mark Smith, explained.

The ministry denied having knowledge of drivers waiting more than two hours in traffic. It said it is aware of commuters having to wait fifteen to twenty minutes the most and it noted that the speed limit in the constructions zone is 20 km per hour, which should be understandable since major road works are being done.

But drivers who spoke with this newspaper told a different story. “During peak time, in the morning, midday and afternoon, it does be hell. Just to come out from if the cross streets to get onto the road does be a problem because nobody does want to give you a pass because everybody always in a hurry. With all them buses in the morning, it becomes real frustrating,” Smith added, while noting that during peak hours large trucks should not be allowed to traverse the roadway and should use the embankment road instead.

Smith opined that if there were a significant amount of traffic ranks or flagmen monitoring the flow of traffic then there would not be so much congestion.

Other drivers also echoed similar sentiments.

“We understand that we need these works and that it’s going to benefit us but you have to manage it better. Let them big trucks use the embankment road. Get the police to monitor the traffic and just plan the works better because it’s a struggle and people does lose money every day with the amount of gas you does burn just sitting in the traffic crawling. People does reach to work late steady and even people with appointments does miss them,” one taxi driver added.

As it relates to the dust pollution, the ministry noted that the issue has since been resolved by the use of three water trucks to wet the road seven times per day.

While there have also been complaints from businesses about customers being unable to access their entrances, the ministry’s release explained that the contractor and engineers have ensured that all businesses within the construction zone have temporary access points to their respective operations.

Work on the project, which is being funded by the Government of Guyana and the Export-Import Bank of China, began last year August and is expected to be completed by September, 2019. The ministry said yesterday that the project is currently 35% completed.

The project is expected to see the widening of the carriageway from a two-lane road into four lanes between Better Hope and Annandale. After Annandale there will be an asphaltic concrete surface upgrade until Belfield.

The project is to also see 26 structures being widened to enable the four-lane road and two bridges will also be constructed to facilitate the road’s expansion. Additionally, 11 traffic light signals will be installed at various intersections, along with street lights, road safety signs and other speed reduction devices.

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