By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Ministry of Works and Utilities has patched up more than 1,000 potholes in New Providence over the last five months as a part of its efforts to improve roads in the capital amid continued complaints over the issue.
Bahiyyah Hepburn, engineer in the Ministry of Works, said during a press conference yesterday that officials have heard people’s cries and agree that the problem needs to be fixed.
As a result, she said workers have been working seven days a week to repair potholes which, she said, has not been an easy task.
She also blamed increased rain from earlier this year as the cause for many of the potholes locals now see today.
“We’ve literally patched over the past five months, almost 2,000 locations, like actual holes so that’s about 340 holes per month and even then, I still haven’t gotten all the information of where else that we’ve patched and that will be done with an audit,” Ms Hepburn said.
“So, a lot of persons have been working towards getting this done correctly and it is a monumental task, especially since there’s an existing backlog starting from the pandemic and heading onwards.
“Supply chain issues with getting materials both for asphalt and for even equipment, because just like how we had issues, people have issues bringing in cars and mechanical equipment, all of that impacts our timeline.”
She added, “Then you also have, again, when we could not do close quarters, we had to reduce the amount of patching and pothole patching is actually a very sensitive, sensitive process in the fact that if one thing impacts it impacts the entire process, you will end up getting more and more of a backlog.”
She also apologised on behalf of the ministry for any inconvenience caused as result of potholes.
“I do apologise to each and every one of y’all for the inconvenience that y’all have suffered but, seven days a week, our staff (and) our contractors are out,” she continued.
“If there are any hiccups, they actually come with a theory to me trying to find out, oh, like, you know, I need mix as soon as possible.”
The epidemic of potholes in New Providence and the Family Islands has been the subject of public outcry for years, but complaints on the issue have been reignited in recent weeks.
Areas that have attracted complaints here in the capital include Wulff Road, Joe Farrington Road and Gladstone Road, among others.
Yesterday, Works and Utilities Minister Alfred Sears admitted that most roads in New Providence are decades old and need to be modernised.
However, he said the country cannot afford to upgrade them all at once.
“While we are waiting, we are systematically and incrementally engaged in a road redevelopment programme as you would know from Village Road,” Mr Sears said. “The ministry has embarked on a systematic paving and repair programme to stabilise the roads.”
He also pointed to several initiatives his ministry has launched to improve the poor-quality roads in the capital in the interim.
“One, the ministry commenced a pothole repair blitz on the second of November 2022 which is meant to aggressively correct the problem in New Providence over a three-month period,” Mr Sears continued.
“Two, the pothole remediation programme has mobilised contractors who will cover 12 zones in the island of New Providence.”
“Three, the Ministry of Works ‘SeeClickFix’ is being set up and tested, which will automate road maintenance complaints. At the moment, we are using a WhatsApp hotline so that the public may call in and inform us of potholes to be fixed.
“Four, the ministry is increasing the road maintenance crew from one to three and the number of personnel in the maintenance area of road patching as well as engaging additional inspectors to enhance the efficiency of the ministries response to and repair of hotline complaints,” he also said.
Prime Minister Phillip “Brave” Davis recently announced that the government plans to start major road works early next year.
Officials said yesterday they are hoping to conduct upgrades to more than 50 roads, including Joe Farrington Road and East Street South, when it embarks on an aggressive road paving exercise between next year and 2023.
A budget for these works has not been finalised, according to officials.
Meanwhile, as it relates to the Family Islands, Mr Sears said the government is in the process of finalising contracts to pave roads in Abaco and has already hired contractors to start roadworks in Andros.