It has been over a year since works have commenced to upgrade the two-lane along the West Coast Demerara/East Bank Essequibo (WCD/EBE) roads, however, works are not progressing as expected.
State Engineer Kester Hinds
Speaking with Guyana Times Project Engineer of Ministry of Public Infrastructure Kester Hinds, with oversight responsibility of the $9.2 billion project, explained that works on the massive road project is about 20 per cent completed to date.
Works being done on the WCD/EBE road
The contract for this project was awarded to Jamaican company, Surrey Paving and Aggregate (SPA) which will be partnering with BK International. The contract was signed in November 2014 and works commended January 2015.
In addition to the upgrade, the project is expected to be completed within 36 months and includes sidewalks and in some sections facilities for cyclists.
According to Hinds, most of the works done are preliminary and were concentrated along a 12-kilometre stretch from the Parika end. He pointed out that some areas require different works than others.
Among the works completed are the paving of the road extension, cleaning of existing culverts and installation of concrete drains. The engineer noted that works are being done in Meten-Meer-Zorg as well as Anna Catherina, where concrete drains are being installed. He noted that culverts from Anna Catherina to Parika were already cleaned.
With a timeline of 36 months, the engineer bemoaned works are not moving at the pace it should, but in the same vain said he does not anticipate any extensions will be required.
“We are expected to complete within the project timeline,” he assured. Hinds outlined that while the project may not be on par to achieve this, there are elements that can be accelerated to allow for it to be completed on time.
He pointed out that the biggest hurdle they are confronted with is that utility infrastructures are in the way. “The challenges that we’ve been faced with are mainly with the utilities location. That has somewhat contributed to the slow pace that we are moving at,” he noted.
Nevertheless, Hinds stressed they are in talks with the utility companies and the issue is expected to be rectified soon so that work of the project is not stymied.
“We are in dialogue with the utility companies and we have had significant amount of the utilities relocated so far,” he said, while adding that steps have already been taken to have those utilities along the upper end of West Coast relocated so works can commence there.
According to the engineer, the decision was taken to start at the Parika end of the road because that area is less active than the Vreed-en-Hoop end. “Vreed-en-Hoop is a little more populated and have a lot of activities ongoing there so in order to minimise any disruption to the operations, it was much more feasible to start from the Parika end where there won’t be much disruptions—and less traffic as well,” he stated.
Hinds explained that businesses (including stores, roadside vendors and even bus operators) towards the upper end of the West Coast road are cognizant of the impending works and have committed to relocating when works commence in their respective areas.
He said these issues were ironed out during the sensitisation phase of the project: “We have had several discussions with them and we just trying to iron out what measures will be put in place to facilitate the vendors.”
In the 2016 Budget, Government has announced that some $2.3 billion will be invested to upgrade the road from Parika to Vreed-en-Hoop. The works include widening the corridor and improving road safety features.