INSIGHT: Road repairs necessary but will the work go smoothly and without cost overruns?

MAJOR roadworks on Prince Charles Drive in 2012 led to traffic diversions and frustrated businesses.

MAJOR roadworks on Prince Charles Drive in 2012 led to traffic diversions and frustrated businesses.

By Malcom Strachan

RESIDENTS in New Providence may be thinking it’s déjà vu – with the announcement of a near-$100m road project.

Minister of Public Works Clay Sweeting made the announcement last week, with $98,210,000 to be spent over the next two and a half years – those checking the timing will see that leads up towards the next election.

It will also bring back memories of the extensive road project carried out by the Hubert Ingraham administration – which received plenty of criticism at the time.

That original project ran long – both in time and costs.

Many of the criticisms centred around delays, with calls for reparations for businesses adversely affected.

The truth is the project was needed – few would disagree with Mr Ingraham that our public infrastructure at the time was outdated and in dire need of help. That didn’t stop it coming under plenty of political fire at the time.

Fast forward to last week and here we go again – but this one will be different, we’re told.

Senior civil engineer Francis Clarke said it would be different from the New Providence Road Improvement Project – which took three years and saw its $60m budget double – as he detailed the project which starts out at two and a half years and will not actually involve any road reconstruction.

He said: “The NPRIP was total reconstruction of a road that included infrastructure, underground utilities and sidewalks. What we are doing in this programme is resurfacing and repaving, taking off the old asphalt and milling it.”

Mr Clarke says the new project will not be as disruptive.

The first phase of the project will cover 55 miles of roads in New Providence and the Family Islands, with $3m budgeted for sidewalks, $4m for drainage – with $2m budgeted for dealing with flooding in Dowdeswell Street and Bay Street.

How much faith do you have that there will be no delays and no overruns?

Well, let’s take a look at a couple of substantial road projects that the current administration has worked on so far.

Village Road was the site of the first major roadworks project this time around – and hit a major bump when after work had started, there was a redesign of the project, adding a roundabout.

Deadline after deadline went flying by without the roadworks being completed. The roundabout was intended to ease congestion – try telling that to drivers backed up at school pick-up and drop-off time at Queen’s College.

Eventually it was declared complete in March of this year … although there was still striping to do, signs to put up, sidewalks to build, traffic signals to get working, curbs to repair, and more things that would require further weeks that seemed to turn into months.

Next up was the $29m Gladstone Road Improvement Project, which we were told would see work beginning by the end of last year.

As you may have noticed, it is now the end of 2023, and still nothing.

At the same briefing last week, Mr Clarke highlighted some of the reasons for the delays, with again the addition of roundabouts proving an issue.

He said that caused problems because the road will have to be widened – and that means the government has to acquire the land that it will be widened onto from private hands.

He said: “What’s happening at the moment is that we’ve identified areas that will be going through a land acquisition process, because we are expanding major intersections, we have several roundabouts that are going to be installed.”

He also pointed the finger at utility companies, saying that the Ministry of Works was “in discussions” with BPL to have some utilities relocated.

He did not inform us if those talks had taken the full year that the project is late already.

So two projects in, two projects late. Third time lucky?

I will freely admit I am not a contractor, but it strikes me as odd that for the Village Road project, you would change the plans after construction had begun to add a feature as substantial as a roundabout – why would that not be in your original blueprint if it was so important? And why would you announce a plan for Gladstone Road for which you didn’t own the land needed to complete it? How was there a hope of getting that in motion a full year ago if the land ownership was not resolved?

During the NPRIP, businesses were frustrated and there were calls for reparations – and businesses in Village Road called for just the same after continual disruption.

But sure, this new project will be different. It will go smoothly, with no delays, and frustration will be at a minimum.

The NPRIP became quite the talking point politically as parties leveraged that frustration to try to win votes – so the ministry has a lot riding on making sure this new project does not attract the same kind of criticism.

The same truth still applies now as it did for Mr Ingraham – road improvements are needed. Anyone rattling their bones over the pothole-filled roads will agree with that. Whether they still agree when a major road is down to one lane and getting to work for 9am means leaving at 7am is another matter.


JohnBrown1834 4 months, 1 week ago

When will the public be able to see these plans? Does input from the public matter? Can a website be set up to display all government-proposed capital projects?


Dawes 4 months, 1 week ago

No you don't need to. Just continue to pay more and more of your income to Government and sit small.


Sickened 4 months, 1 week ago

You're asking WAY too much. This is African leadership 101. Keep the people ignorant and lazy and leadership can live like kings.


One 4 months, 1 week ago

We only associate our failures with African countries because we share a colonial past with them. By design, the former colonies failed to become prosperous independent countries. We adopted a political and governing system designed for a colony. We did not create a new system design for an independent country. So now our leaders are black Bahamians but they're not much different in their treatment of the people (subjects/slaves) as the white British lords who ruled over the Bahamas.

We need to ask ourselves what we want the Bahamas to be and create new systems that promote that outcome. Instead of trying to make a system designed for exploitation work for us.


Sickened 4 months, 1 week ago

This is the PLP we're talking about. These projects will take at least 4 years to complete and the final bill we be about $230 million. As the PLP are NOT planning to be in power after the next election, they will blame any cost overrun on the FNM who will have to finish it. Mark my words.


themessenger 4 months, 1 week ago

As much as It pains me to say this, I beg to differ. If the FNM can't sort out their infighting, backstabbing and cannibalistic ways, which is contributing mightily to the disillusionment and despondency of their base and the electorate in general, the PLP probably feel they have more than an even chance of retaining the government as disastrous as that would be.


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