Mon | Sep 23, 2019

Stephen A. Shaw | Wrong prescription on roadworks, Doc!

Published:Thursday | July 11, 2019 | 12:10 AM

It is premature, and foolhardy even, to pronounce doggedly on the outcome of an act that is still in process. Dr Garth Rattray would have, in his Monday, July 8, 2019, Gleaner column ‘Hagley Park nightmare’, arrived at a number of erroneous and hasty prognostications regarding how the road improvement work along Hagley Park Road in Kingston is being implemented, in his eyes, and the likely ramifications.

Doctors may properly prep their patients for major surgery based on the candidate’s known medical history at the time, but somewhere during the procedure, an unknown condition may be discovered, or God forbid, some unintended organ is impacted. What do doctors do then? Do they alter their approach and correct the secondary issue? Or do they ignore the error, stitch up the patient and leave it to fester?

Likewise, engineers will scope and cost a roadwork project based on the findings of a preliminary on-the-ground survey, and rightfully set out to implement the works according to these original precepts. However, during the course of works, challenges may arise with the performance of one aspect of the project or another. What does he do then? Does he continue with the implementation of subsequent components without addressing the current challenge? No, he certainly does not.

What Dr Rattray might not have been aware of is the strict quality-control mechanisms the NWA have established with respect to the current roadwork Legacy projects. The agency prescribes strength, compaction and gradation tests for all aspects of the works – including concrete structures; construction material; compaction of the road pavement and line, level and coring of the asphalt.

The alarm raised in the July 8 article concerning the removal of “a length of the newly marled and rolled Hagley Park road surface” was clearly informed by ignorance. If the ongoing works are found lacking, the NWA is duty-bound to have the contractor correct it.

Some 964 compaction tests have been conducted on base and sub-base material along the Hagley Park Road project thus far. These are not academic exercises. Test results actually determine how the project progresses, as well as the payments made to the contractor for a particular bill item.

Since, too, extensive underground works are being performed, the indispensable pressure-testing of water pipes, which is also supervised by the NWA, on occasion, may reveal leaks, which will not be left buried.

If we were to do so, the agency would be guilty of reneging on its fiduciary duty.

Little drains

The Legacy projects are multifaceted undertakings involving not just roadworks, but water supply and sewer upgrades, and extensive drainage improvement.

Dr Rattray had raised concern about “the little drains” that were being installed along the project area, given its history of flooding. The drains, which are being placed underground along Hagley Park Road, are not tiny, by any stretch of the imagination.

Upgrades to the drainage features include the installation of a total of 7,000-metre of new HDPE storm water culverts, including some of the largest available. This is supplemented with a half of kilometre of concrete U-drains and 65 manholes at various points serving as inlets and outflows for storm water.

The NWA accepts that the level of displacement and inconvenience being experienced by road users, households and businesses has been intolerable. This is why every opportunity to expedite the works, while not compromising quality, is constantly being sought to bring the project to substantial completion.

To date, the Hagley Park Road Legacy project is 86 per cent complete. According to the schedule, the very important testing of newly laid water pipes will dominate activities for the next few weeks.

Stephen A. Shaw is manager of communication and customer service at National Works Agency (NWA). Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.