Exuma's crumbling roads are on track for a much-needed upgrade after aging beyond their 15-year useful life span.
David Cox, the Ministry of Works' senior engineer for the Family Islands, said the condition of the island's roads ranged from fair to poor given that they have not been overhauled for more than 20 years.
Much of Exuma's infrastructure is older than 15 years, which is the life cycle for the road surface mixture if it is well maintained. The last time major works were executed on the island was in the mid to late 1990s.
"The roads aren't maintained in a fashion similar to first world countries where they would go in every five years and carry out some sort of remediation. We tend to leave the roads for as long as possible until potholes begin breaking out and then we repair them. When it gets so bad, we have to repave them," said Mr Cox.
"In effect we could actually repave the whole of Exuma and that could be justified because the roads are in a poor condition."
The Ministry of Works has hired Caribbean Pavement Solutions, a subsidiary of the Bahamas Striping Group of Companies, to effect repairs.
"Caribbean Pavement Solutions will carry out ten miles of roadworks in hot mix asphalt which is the better way to go," Mr Cox added.
"Sand seal is an older technique which is no longer being practiced in many parts of the world except in rural areas. With the asphalt we should see a better-quality road. It should give us at least 20 years of useful life."
The 10-mile stretch of road runs from Exuma International Airport through Georgetown's centre, covering its loop, and extends in the opposite direction from the airport to Sandals Emerald Bay Resort.
"Investing in infrastructure has a profound impact," said Caribbean Pavement Solutions president, Atario Mitchell. "It employs locals, it enables economic development and provides first class roads to safely facilitate the movement of our people and visitors. This upgrade may have been a long time coming, but once our work is completed it would have been well worth the wait."
The work includes verge clearance; the removal of existing pavement; raising roads in areas prone to flooding; supply and installation of proper drainage; guardrail replacement in various locations; road markings; erecting stops signs; and settlement signs and the installation of thousands of cat eyes.
Caribbean Pavement Solutions will also assist in the design and project management of a proposed three-acre, community park in Moss Town, in walking distance of the LN Coakley High School.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the company said it was "shovel ready" and set to begin work next month.
"We have completed key parts of the topographical work. The road design is completed. The site has been cleared and fenced for the placement of our asphalt manufacturing plant. We have also identified a contractor from Exuma to carry out the concrete work associated with this project. That contract will be awarded in short order," Caribbean Pavement Solutions' managing director, Dr Allen Albury, said.
Ivan Ferguson, Exuma's administrator, said the upgrades were timely given renewed interest in the island from Bahamians and visitors alike in the wake of Hurricane Dorian's devastating impact on Abaco and Grand Bahama.
"We have seen a surge of traffic on our streets and an increase in population, so the road repairs come at a very appropriate and necessary time for Exumians," said Mr Ferguson.
"Many of our visitors are fearful to go out at night because of the potholes in the road and so this is a very convenient time. It is going to alleviate a lot of the concerns the community has about the roads. We're elated about the repairs, the signage which will give direction to our visitors, and the cat eyes which will supplement the lack of streetlights in some areas."
Pedro Rolle, Exuma's Chamber of Commerce president, added: "This is positive in a number of ways. The most obvious is the direct employment opportunities it provides to persons locally assisting in the road work project.
"We also need to look at the auxiliary benefits that come along with this. Proper road work encourages foreign direct and local investment in our communities." The project is slated for completion by March 2021.