Kaieteur News – Roads are being constructed frenetically in towns and villages across the country. The PPP/C Government, no doubt in preparation for Local Government Elections next year, is on a road building spree.
It is well known that the absorptive capacity of the country’s road construction sector is limited. There are simply not enough specialized road building companies and machinery for the sort of extensive infrastructural road projects which the PPP/C is undertaking.
The pace of road construction is creating serious bottlenecks. Contractors who have secured road-building contracts are having to do some work at one location, then move their equipment and staff to another location to show that work has commenced at that location, and then to be continuously shuttling equipment, materials and staff between worksites. This is causing some delays.
It has also led to political interference.
In one instance a PPP/C Commissar, with no standing in a road project, went to a Contractor and castigated him for the time he was taking to complete a particular road. This sort of political meddling that should not be tolerated. Political Operatives should take their concerns to their authorities responsible for the supervision of the road works. They not get involved in reprimanding or rebuking any contractor.
Because of the large number of road contracts being give out, and the fact that many of these are small contracts, what is happening is that a number of inexperienced persons are tendering for road works. Reports indicate that some of them are winning these contracts even though they have limited experience in road construction.
This is bound to raise red flags about the soundness of the some of the works being undertaken. An upcoming contractor has to start somewhere. He has to get work in order to garner experience. But those giving out the contracts should ensure that those securing the contracts have the necessary equipment and the skills needed to do the job, however small it is or at least can prove that they have unhindered access to such resources.
As a result of some of these concerns, questions have been raised about the soundness of some of the roads which are being done. In some cases, some roads are being built with concrete. It is not certain whether the plan is to pave these afterwards with asphalt.
Prior to independence great attention was paid to ensuring that the base of the road was strong enough to withstand the anticipated, both present and future, of the traffic on the roadway. As such, efforts were made to dig out the subsoil and to create a base on which the road would be constructed. Sometimes the soils were so soft that huge boulders would have to be laid to hold it together and provide firmness to the foundation on which the road will be laid.
These days there is a new way in which many roads are being built. The popular fad these days is to put a bitumen cap – known as a ‘black top’ – on to the existing road surface.
This is the method which is being employed all across the country at the moment. The ‘black top’ roads have a nice sheeny finish. The problem with ‘black top’ finishes is that they elevate the existing road surface far higher than the verges. This creates a dangerous incline. Homeowners are being affected because they now find that the road is now higher than their bridges.
If you are driving out of your home, your vehicle has to climb up towards the road. And in many instances homeowners are finding that their bottoms of their vehicles are grazing against the incline between the road and their bridges.
But there is another major problem. The ‘black top’ is laid by a machine and often when the top is put on it is narrower than the existing road surface. Thus on many redone roads, where two vehicles could usually pass each other side by side, this is no longer possible. The road surfaces are not only higher but narrower.
Greater attention therefore needs to be paid to quality assurance in the construction of these roads. It is good thing that some small contractors are being given jobs to build roads in villages and towns. But it is vitally necessary that there be an assessment that these road works are sound, built to the required specification and are not narrower than before.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the writer.)
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