Government is intent on restarting and quickly completing several bridge and road repair projects in rural Barbados.
Acting Prime Minister and Minister of Transport, Works and Water Resources Santia Bradshaw told the country yesterday the Mia Amor Mottley administration had not taken its eyes off those areas and that in the coming days, several projects in St Andrew and St Joseph would be restarted to repair bridges and roads as a matter of priority.
Her promise during a 3 p.m. post-Cabinet press conference at Ilaro Court came a mere few hours after the Democratic Labour Party took a team, led by president Dr Ronnie Yearwood, to inspect the Government’s progress in projects at Pie Corner and Lamberts, St Lucy; Walkers and Cane Garden in St Andrew, where they bemoaned the slow speed of repairs.
The Bawdens and Thompson bridges in the Scotland District will form part of the Ministry of Transport and Works’ main focus in the coming months, but officials have been forced back to the drawing board for new designs and new work schedules due to the heavy 2023 rainy season, Bradshaw said.
She was flanked by acting chief technical officer Philip Tudor and Parliamentary Secretary in the ministry, Dr Romel Springer, who explained the difficulties they faced in trying to improve rural roadways.
Bradshaw noted that from climate change to modern-day heavy equipment to decades-old structures, Government had faced significant challenges in helping people in rural districts live more easily.
She said she was acutely aware of the frustration Barbadians, especially those living in St Andrew which had multiple bridges in disrepair, were feeling.
“I know people in those districts have been asking for some time about the Bawdens Bridge. Some variations had to be made to the design. There were some increases in cost to make the necessary accommodations and having had all the designs put in place, we have now approved the commencement of work at the Bawdens Bridge,” she told reporters.
“While the issue of bridges is on the forefront of people’s minds, it is also on the forefront of the Government’s mind. We have been working not just on Bawdens, but also on the Pie Corner Bridge. We visited Pie Corner last week with the entire team for a better understanding of the challenges there. That bridge is about 60 per cent complete. It has taken a while, but we are awaiting some parts from the Ministry of Housing to assist with completing those works.”
Bradshaw said work on gabions at Fruitful Hill, St Joseph, had also started, but noted that projects using gabions had been delayed due to a supply issue during the pandemic, which had persisted even after the COVID-19 period slowed.
“We had challenges in terms of getting a lot of materials into the country. We’ve had to sometimes barter with the COMPLANT (the Chinese construction company facilitating the project) team because they are also bringing gabions into the country, and that has taken a lot of time for them to get their supplies in.”
In response to a question about the temporary damming of areas near bridges in St Andrew to accelerate repairs and rebuilds, Tudor said plans were already in place.
“As part of the overall plan for the Thompson Bridge, when the work is started we will have to shift the waterway so that we can do our construction. We can’t do our construction with the water flowing through the bridge, so we will do a re-alignment, put in the bridge, and then remove the excavation we created,” he explained.
He noted that in the first phase of the $230 million project being undertaken by COMPLANT, 15 roads would be repaired. Work at Shorey Village was done, and they will now head along the Ermy Bourne Highway, Barclays Park, Cattlewash and Bloomsbury in St Joseph, and on to Hillaby, St Andrew.
“Bloomsbury is fairly at an accelerated rate so we have asked COMPLANT to go in and do the designs so we can start it as soon as possible,” Tudor said.
Springer, who is also parliamentary representative for St Andrew, said the combined challenges ranged from the old age of most bridges which were built pre-1950, the increase in size and weight of trucks and buses traversing the rural areas, and basic movement by vehicle owners over the years.