Junction roadwork now set for March 2023 completion

National Works Agency (NWA) Chief Executive Officer EG Hunter has assured that the remaining work on phase one of the Junction main road project in St Mary will be wrapped up by March 2023.

He insisted, as he did 10 months ago, that it is better to lumber on with the current contract instead of entering into new arrangements.

“I stand by that, and again the record will show that the works being undertaken now are in fact being undertaken by a sub-contractor, not the original main contractor,” he told the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee last week during discussions on the $1.27 billion which the finance ministry has proposed for the NWA in the first supplementary estimates for the 2022/23 fiscal period.

Hunter also sought to clarify the issues, pointing out that it is the contract for the repairs to the breakaway at Chovy — a section of the corridor — that remains incomplete.

“The junction road project — Toms River to Agualta Vale (phase one) — has been completed. There was a slippage at Chovy. It is quite understandable that from a layman’s point of view one would look at it and consider it as part of the job, but they are two separate contracts that were entered into at two separate times. The works that remain incomplete at this point in time are the Chovy breakaway repairs,” he explained.

Hunter pointed out that it is well-known that the contractor has had “serious, serious trouble” completing the works, remarking that, “it is rather unfortunate that my reputation is intimately tied up with the performance of a contractor”.

“It is not for me to divulge his issues [but] suffice it to say that what obtains on the junction contract is an aberration, largely precipitated by issues with the particular contractor,” he stressed.

Surrey Paving and Aggregate has thrice been granted an extension on its deadline to complete the project, which began on November 6, 2017, revising the $597.7-million contract to $1.117 billion. At a submission to a parliamentary committee in January, the NWA’s parent ministry advised that the contractor had so far been paid $989.7 million, and that the works were 96 per cent complete. The job was to be finished by February 2022, with the previous extension having expired in December 2021.

The Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation said the contractors’ rate of production was unacceptably low, and that the NWA had indicated to the company that, “failure to significantly increase the rate of production in November 2021 will result in immediate steps being taken under the contract to close out the project. Consequently, the outstanding works may be completed by another contractor using the balance of funds under the contract”.

Hunter had advised Parliament’s Infrastructure and Physical Development Committee in January that the prolonged delay was due to geotechnical issues, with many of the challenges being directly related to the capability and capacity of the contractor to deliver.

Former Public Defender Arlene Harrison Henry had also weighed in on the issue at the time, urging the Government to review its contract for the rehabilitation of section one of the Junction main road, lamenting the numerous deadline extensions, and citing safety concerns.

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