Sat | Jan 23, 2021

Letter of the Day | Don’t patch, build proper roads

Published:Monday | November 23, 2020 | 12:07 AM


On November 17, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced in Parliament that $1 billion has been allocated for emergency road repairs and clean-up activities across the island.

Members of Parliament (MPs) will receive $15 million each through the National Works Agency (NWA). The money is to be spent on the de-bushing and patching of roads. We need to pay close attention to the word ‘patching’. In a recent news article, the specifications were given as to how the MPs were to spend the money they would receive.

A minimum of $7 million is to be spent on patching, $4 million on de-bushing, $2 million for beautification and $2 million on drain cleaning. The prime minister expressed his empathy for motorists as a stimulus for making the funds available. To his credit, he did point out that this amount was not enough.

The inadequate funds being allocated to road repairs is just a single cog in the issues plaguing the road rehabilitation machinery. Recently, president of the NWA, E.G. Hunter, said the reactive approach to road maintenance was a major contributor to the current state of the roads. He also blamed an approach of damage repair over damage mitigation. What this means is, we focus more on fixing problems as they pop up, rather than construct our roads in such a way that they are able to withstand the forces of nature and all other factors.

Hunter said that patching has replaced the planned maintenance of roads, which, he pointed out, was not a sustainable approach.

Poor or no drainage at all was also highlighted as reasons for our poor road network. With all these discussions going on, I believe we seem to be stuck in a never-ending cycle. The Government will say there is not enough money to properly repair the roads, and the patching will go on and on and on. Which begs the question, why not properly fix the roads in a phased manner?

‘A stitch in time saves millions’

Every year, millions of dollars are borrowed to fix the same roads; let’s end the cycle. Instead of trying to touch up every road, let’s focus on doing the proper thing the first time around. “A stitch in time saves nine” or, in this case, saves millions.

I use the road of the Bog Walk Gorge as an example. Before the most recent road repairs, I can recall that every time it rained the roads would just end up being eroded and almost impassable.

I have noticed that those sections which are repaired using concrete are sturdy; then why aren’t we making more concrete roads? Since the country is already spending millions, let us spend it wisely. Also, proper environment planning needs to be done; we need to stop making roads in areas where the land cannot support their weight.

Finally, I do not understand why roads are dug up as soon as they are fixed. It’s like watching the most exhausting game of cat and mouse.


Final-year student

BA in Journalism

Caribbean School of Media

and Communication, UWI