Wed | Dec 19, 2018

Reaping the whirlwind of shoddy roads

Published:Friday | November 10, 2017 | 12:00 AM


I suppose the entire Jamaica could bawl out about the condition of the roads in their communities, because after the rains, everywhere you go, it's the same. There is hardly any track that could classify as a good road, and although Jamaica is said to have one of the densest road networks in the world, they are mostly of the poorest quality.

Few of our roads were built for modern traffic, and many follow the old tracks of animals with a little asphalt daubed on them. The National Works Agency, which is responsible for many roads, has not done any more impressive work in construction and maintenance than the old Public Works Department, which it replaced. I can't believe that Jamaica does not have competent road construction engineers, or is it that no one cares?

The Junction Road, one of

the major cross-country thoroughfares, is scheduled for major maintenance shortly. This should mean major overhaul and reconstruction, and not just resurfacing. Even as a non-technical person, I don't believe the money proposed can do a good and lasting job.

I have been driving on this road for more than 50 years, and it has always been bad, but I did not notice how terrible it was until a recent trip on a large bus. This was a hair-raising experience punctuated by the screams of the female passengers whenever a truck came windshield to windshield around the hairpin bends overlooking the rocky Wag Water River deep below, and hoping and praying that the pavement did not give way under the weight of the vehicles.

The road needs to be widened, straightened, and drains installed, and the double bends near Broadgate should be bridged in order to get rid of the hairpin curves. My father used to drill the proverb in me that whatever is worth doing is worth doing well, and if it means doing a shorter distance than what is proposed and having a short-term plan to complete the project is better than sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind, as we have done in the past.

We patch and patch until the surface looks like an old, redone quilt. I have not heard of any contractor who is sanctioned for putting quarter-inch of asphalt where the specifications and the contract call for two inches.

The St Johns Road should be called something else other than a 'road'. A river of red mud is a better description.

There is danger in giving contracts to the lowest bidder, knowing full well that a good job cannot be done for the bid price. Very often, these contractors neither have the skill nor the equipment to do a good job, and nobody seems to supervise the work in progress. If we continue as we have been doing, the whirlwind we are sowing is bound to bring abundant harvest.