While Point Fortin and La Brea residents mull more protests over the condition of the Southern Main Road, Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan is calling for patience as he notes three road rehabilitation projects have been started in the communities over the past two weeks.
His comments followed yesterday’s protest by Point Fortin/San Fernando Taxi Driver’s Association members who refused to work yesterday.
In Union Village, residents also blocked the road with burning debris in protest over the poor condition of the roadway.
However, Sinanan said because of the soil texture and volume of traffic flowing to the industrial towns this ministry had a real challenge on its hand. He said this was why the ministry was speeding up its award of contracts to complete the Solomon Hochoy Highway Extension to Point Fortin. He estimated that the project will be completed by the middle of 2020 but phases will be opened when completed.
“We sympathise with road users, but there are challenges with the road because of the texture of the soil and there is constant movement of the road. We actually have three projects ongoing in that area,” Sinanan said.
“Because of movement, you have the WASA lines that will leak from time to time, so we do have a challenge in the area and that is why we are concentrating to ensure that the highway is completed.
“Once the highway is completed, we will have a significant amount of traffic now operating on the highway. It will take that volume and we will continue to have a maintenance of the main road.”
Tenders for the remaining phases of the highway project between Rousillac and Point Fortin have been advertised and are expected to close within the next three weeks, Sinanan said. He is also hoping that a contract will be awarded soon after to ensure the project stays on schedule.
When a news crew took a drive to Point Fortin yesterday there was little taking place along the roadway. In Union Village, a tree that was cut down for the protest leaned precariously on utility lines.
From 5 am yesterday, taxi drivers parked their vehicles at the taxi hub in Point Fortin and refused to work leaving scores of commuters stranded. Association president John David said many commuters returned home while some were able to access other modes of transportation. He said the association also got support from PH taxi drivers.
Speaking to Guardian Media by phone, David said the association did not order the villagers to block the road but supported their stance. He said they too were being affected by the poor road conditions like the taxi drivers. Asked about Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith’s recent statement that protesters will be dealt with by the police, he said the officers can only arrest a protester if they see the individual in the process of blocking the road.
“If the police just see people standing and watching, who are they holding? It is the same police who have to use the road, so why doesn’t the Commissioner meet with the ministers to see if they can get the road fixed to help the officers? We are already paying five per cent road tax so the Commissioner should try to see what he can do about this situation,” David said.
Taxi drivers said they were faced with increased maintenance costs as the roads are riddled with potholes, many of them as a result of work done by WASA. They said this adds to their operating costs, which increased with the recent hike in the price of Super gasoline.
Their contention is that between Point Fortin and South Oropouche no vehicle can drive for five minutes on a smooth surface. As a result of the condition, they said disc pads, shocks and tyres constantly go bad.
- by Kevon Felmine. Photo by Kristian De Silva.