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Transport and Works Minister, Robert Pickersgill has said that the cost to repair damage to the island’s road network as a result of the passage of Hurricane Wilma, would likely exceed the billion-dollar mark.
A total 149 roads were damaged due to heavy rains and landslides associated with Hurricane Wilma, with some 22 main roads affected in Clarendon; 12 in Manchester, 22 in Kingston and St. Andrew; and 30 in St. Catherine.
Mr. Pickersgill, who was addressing journalists at Monday’s (Oct. 31) post Cabinet press briefing, said that the Ministry had received estimates of the damage and the projected repair costs have been presented to Cabinet for approval.
“To a larger extent, we have received those estimates. Cabinet instructed that we should convene another meeting of the infrastructure committee, which we intend to do on Thursday (Nov. 3) to look more thoroughly at those estimates to have them discussed with the Ministry of Finance and be prepared for Cabinet come Monday (Nov. 7).”
He indicated that the estimates also included “bridges, river training work and rehabilitation of retaining walls, and the cost to reopen roads.”
Turning to specific corridors, the Transport Minister informed that while the Yallahs fording was still impassable, the National Works Agency (NWA) had started de-silting operations with a view to having the facility reopened soon.
On the matter of the Bog Walk Gorge, he said: “although the water has receded, sections of the road surface are badly damaged and the NWA started repair activities on Sunday, October 23 and the corridor was reopened to traffic on Wednesday, October 26, and significant repair work is still outstanding.”
In relation to Mandela Highway in St. Catherine, where the westbound carriage was flooded, Mr. Pickersgill said the NWA had mobilised a team to begin work along the highway, “including the creation of a drain in the median and the excavation of sections of the Duhaney and Ferry Rivers.”
The rehabilitative work has resulted in single lane traffic on the westbound carriageway on Mandela Highway.
Meanwhile, three bridges were affected by the torrential downpour associated with Hurricane Wilma, the Transport Minister revealed, and these are the Worthy Park bailey bridge in St. Catherine, the Alley Bridge in Clarendon, and the Bog Walk bailey bridge in St. Catherine.
The Worthy Park bridge was closed to vehicular traffic on Saturday, October 22 due to severe damage to the bridge’s support structure. Repair work will include underpinning of the bridge, and the addition of another panel to the structure.
Repair work on Alley Bridge in Clarendon, which toppled under the downpour, will require the driving of piles to reinstate the pier support and superstructure, and Minister Pickersgill has informed that discussions were underway with Tankweld Limited for the works to begin shortly.
As for the Bog Walk bailey bridge, the Minister said “contractor services for the carrying out of the proposed rehabilitation works will be procured under the methodology for dealing with the award of works contracts arising from emergencies.”
He added that given the nature of the bridge and river training required, the specialist contract services, and the urgency of some road repair works, the NWA would have to enter into negotiations with nominated contractors, who were duly registered with the National Contracts Commission (NCC).