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Soursop Turn to Chapelton works delayed

Published:Thursday | January 7, 2016 | 1:00 AMJovan Johnson
Road work under way on the Soursop Turn to Chapelton corridor in Clarendon.
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A $1.3 billion dollar road project in Clarendon that was due for completion in March is to be extended by three months, and the National Works Agency (NWA), which oversees the project, is insisting that there will be no cost overruns.

However, the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) is calling for the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) to open a probe into the contract award process and to determine whether taxpayers are getting value for money.

The NWA's communication manager, Stephen Shaw, told The Gleaner that the project, which started in September 2014, had to be extended beyond the 18-month timeline, because of "excess rock excavation".

"Our decision to go more land side than gully in widening the road. Going on the gully side would have resulted in a high number of retaining walls being built to facilitate the embankment for the road," he explained, adding that those changes have forced a change to the project design.

DISMISSING OVERRUNS

However, he insisted that the budget for the project will not change, and he is dismissing the argument that there may be overruns.

"In the initial estimate, we had sums to build a number of retaining walls. You shift the alignment, you don't need to put up any walls but you need to cut the embankment. You may find that you don't need to expend that money. Wall alone can cost you $10 million, but if you have to cut down, it may cost you half of that or quarter," Shaw argued.

But Mike Henry, opposition spokesperson on works, is alleging that the authorities used Google Maps, an Internet mapping service, to design the project, resulting in inaccuracies and the subsequent extension of the project deadline.

"The contractor would tender on the basis of that and later correct the design flaws," charged Henry, who said the NWA should be held responsible and forced to tell the public how the project was designed and how were the bill of quantities arrived at.

The Government signed a contract in 2014 for the reconstruction and straightening of 10.5 kilometres of roadway from Soursop Turn to Chapelton.

The NWA said that up to December 11, the project was 37 per cent complete.