The Government plans to spend over $600 million repairing the road network in the ill-fated Rio Grande Valley in Portland, Minister of Transport and Works, Hon. Mike Henry, said Wednesday (September 2).
Mr. Henry told a press conference at his Ministry, Maxfield Avenue, Kingston, that the area has remained among his priorities since December 19 last year when 14 persons from Rio Grande’s farming community were killed after the truck, in which they were journeying to market in Kingston, plunged into a ravine.
“I have given instructions for works to commence in that area as soon as possible. Additionally, I have instructed that the Alligator Church Bridge, which is seriously compromised, be replaced and this work will start in the next couple of weeks,” Mr. Henry disclosed.
Some 23 kilometres of roadway, exclusive of bridges and retaining structures, are included in the project, which is to be funded from the 20% of the recent special cess on fuel dedicated to the Road Maintenance Fund.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Works, Dr. Alwyn Hales (left), speaking with Transport Planner in the Ministry, Dorothea Clarke, at a press conference at the Ministry, Maxfield Avenue, Kingston on Wednesday (September 2) to clarify the issue of the renovation of the Transport and Works’ Minister’s residence at Millsborough Crescent and deal with road improvements.
In addition, Mr. Henry said that the new Rio Grande Bridge structure is expected in Jamaica this week. The importation of the bridge is part of a comprehensive works package, put together by the National Works Agency (NWA) to make transit in the Rio Grande Valley area of Portland safer.
“We intend to have it erected within 18 months and, at 210 metres, it will be the longest bridge in Jamaica,” Mr. Henry said.
He said, however, that the road situation in Portland had not been ignored by his Ministry, despite the lack of funds.
“For many years the roads leading to Comfort Castle, Millbank, Windsor, Cornwall Barracks and Bellevue have been in a serious state of disrepair. We have attempted, in an incremental way, to bring some measure of reliability and safety to roads in the area,” he said.
He noted that the Ministry has also built retaining walls at Riverview, Mooretown and Bellevue, at a cost in excess of $40 million.
Detailed checks have already been done on the geology of the Rio Grande area, in anticipation of the project, and the appropriate designs made.
Mr. Henry said it is hoped that the nation can now appreciate the need for a dedicated fund, in the form of a cess on fuel, to improve the island’s road networks.