One more scoping meeting for the East Coast/East Bank road link project is scheduled to take place before the development of the Terms of Reference (ToR) by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to Ministry of Public Infrastructure (MPI) Technical Services Manger Nigel Erskine.
Giving an update on the project, Erskine explained that the stakeholder consultation via scoping meetings for the general public have been continuing, with the most recent being held on Sunday at the North Ruimveldt Secondary School. The final one, he said, will be held on Saturday at the Ogle Community Centre, specifically for the East Coast residents that will be affected by the project.
After the last meeting is completed, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will then develop the terms of reference for the project.
“The purpose of the consultations is to get feedback from residents about the things they feel might affect them, so we can include it in the terms of reference,” Erskine related.
He added that during the last scoping meeting, residents raised questions about expected traffic congestion around the project site, including what provisions will be put in place, as well as about the arrangements to be made for the disposal of waste that will come as a result of the construction.
“They also asked about security along the new road that will be constructed and whether the new road will reduce congestion,” Erskine said.
While the meetings have been going on for months at different areas, Erskine pointed out that the participation by citizens has been fluctuating.
“We had a very good participation in the second meeting that was held at the Grove/Diamond Secondary School, where about 200 persons attended. The first meeting we had a very low turnout on the East Coast at the Better Hope Community Centre and so what we did since then was that we did more advertisements in the newspapers and on social media and the second consultation we saw the improvements,” he said.
The project is expected to affect several residential properties; two at Goedverwagting, 18 at Ogle, nine on Aubrey Barker Road, 14 in Mocha and six in Diamond, which was revealed in the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment screening.
The total land area that will be acquired by the project is approximately 1,135 acres.
Erskine had previously told Stabroek News that the works on the road are expected to begin in the final quarter of this year as the preliminary report, which suggests that a four-lane highway is most feasible, was handed over in October by Indian company, RITES.
He had explained that the MPI is expecting to have the draft design report in the first quarter of this year and a month after that, the final design with the drawings and tender documents should be ready. Thereafter, it will go into bidding which will take another four to six months. By the last quarter of the year, the contractor should be mobilised and ready to start the works.
The report has estimated that the project will cost approximately US$104 million, though Erskine said the actual cost could be above or below that sum, once the project is finalised and they receive the draft design early next year.
However, Finance Minister Winston Jordan, during his 2019 budget presentation last November, had pegged the cost of the project at US$120 million.
“This by-pass, which was estimated at US$50 million a few years ago, for which funding was secured, is now projected to cost US$120 million. We will be approaching our bilateral partner to secure the additional funding to make this road a reality,” he said. India is the bilateral partner.
During the feasibility study period, which established the road alignment, Jordan said, “our engineering teams encountered a swampy area between Ogle and Diamond.”
To start preparatory works, which will include draining, re-engineering and retrofitting the swamp area to facilitate the main construction works which are targeted for later in 2019, he said, $45 million has been allocated.
Jordan had explained that the frustration of road users due to the lack of an adequate road network system to meet the tremendous growth was noted, and that the bypass road is a small step in the comprehensive expansion of the country’s road network system to reduce congestion and improve travel times on the roadways.
The new road link will also provide a bypass from the city, where most traffic flows daily, resulting in massive congestion and major delays.
The proposed four-lane highway will have four connectors; at Aubrey Barker road, Haags Bosch, Mocha Arcadia and Great Diamond. The total length of the road is expected to be around 25 kilometres, with the main alignment running for 13.5 kilometres. As a result, it has been proposed that its speed limit be around 100 kilometres per hour.
The consultant had also said at the meeting that there will be several road safety provisions, including metal beam crash barriers, concrete crash barriers, lighting, adequate traffic signs, pavement marking, impact attenuators, road studs, a pedestrian footpath, cycle track and shrub plantation in the raised median to cut headlight glare from oncoming traffic.