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A value assessment of the country’s existing road infrastructure is currently being undertaken, Transport and Works Minister, Michael Henry, has advised.
He pointed out that the assessment, which is being financed by the French firm, Bouygues Travaux Construction Limited, developers of Highway 2000, is being undertaken by a team of environmental and technical experts at the University of the West Indies (UWI).
This undertaking, he explained, would enable the Ministry to provide Prime Minister Bruce Golding and the Cabinet with a comprehensive report on the state of the existing road network, current developments, as well as outline feasible options for future expansions.
Speaking at last week’s post-Cabinet media briefing at Jamaica House, Mr. Henry said the assessment would seek to incorporate and address critical issues, such as the absence of a geo-technical study on the topography of the Mount Rosser segment of the Spanish Town to Ocho Rios highway currently under construction, and concerns raised regarding its integrity and ability to accommodate the development.
“The contract was awarded to Bouygues to start work on the Mount Rosser section on the basis of (their) having enough knowledge of the terrain of the area, based on the work they were doing with the bauxite companies. In the contract that we have with Bouygues, they are protected against any of what we run into now, which is rock formations which now demand a different incline,” the Minister said, adding that this is expected to result in a $28 million cost overrun on the original figure of $159 million.
Against this background, he said the Ministry is working with Bouygues to determine whether realignment of some areas could be undertaken, pointing out that, “having spent.near $70 to $90 million, I would hate to be accused of abandoning the project, which is very important, (and) which is needed.” He also disclosed that Bouygues is expected to commence work on the Vineyards to Williamsfield leg of Highway 2000 in early 2009.
Regarding the alternative routes to the Bog Walk Gorge, which was severely damaged during the passage of Tropical Storm Gustav in August, and rehabilitated by Bouygues over a four-week period, Mr. Henry said these routes are being examined with a view to making them “more permanent and useable.”