Leader of the Opposition, Godwin Friday has joined other users of the South Leeward Highway, who have expressed concern that some areas are beginning to deteriorate even as the rehabilitation of the roadway is yet to be completed.
Over the past few weeks, large potholes and cracks have opened up in the asphalt between Milton Cato Memorial Hospital and Grand Gate. Further, the concrete around some manholes have broken up and workers have recently begun to cut out large defects in the rehabilitated sections.
“Have you driven on the Leeward Highway, say up to Gibson Corner and see how many potholes are in the road already?”Friday said on his weekly radio programme on Nice Radio on Friday.
In April 2014, Dipcon Engineering Services Ltd. and the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines signed an EC$25.15 million contract for the rehabilitation of the 11.4 kilometres (7 miles) of roadway between Kingstown and Layou.
The work should have been completed in May 2016, but Dipcon has failed to meet that deadline.
“How is it that you can’t just pave a road and let it stay paved for a year or two? The same thing happened on Murray’s Road. Why is it that we can’t get these things done in a way in which people have come to expect?” Friday said.
He referred to the Leeward Highway, a concrete stretch of road that was built by his New Democratic Party over two decades ago.
“You have roads in Bequia that have been there for 20 years and now that they are breaking [up], they say well, NDP didn’t do a good job,” Friday further said.
“Good gracious me. It’s not supposed to — you can’t expect it to last for a hundred years but if you get 15 years out of it and it then starts to need repair or even 10 years and it needs repair, then you have to do the repair. But we are talking here about a matter of months. And those are only going to get worse if they don’t repair them.”
Friday said it is not a case where there is just one pothole.
“Where there are so many, then you think then maybe there is something that is much more serious in terms of the overall project and that has to be dealt with.”
The people on the Leeward side “they put up with so much over the course of how many years this has been under construction now,” the opposition leader said.
He noted that the road is almost one year behind schedule.
“And this is something that ought to have been done in a more effective and efficient way and when it is done, you expect it to last. Not as soon as it is done you are gonna start repairing what you have done and you haven’t even finished other stretches of the road that haven’t been finished yet.”
Friday said the situation “is just simply unacceptable and it doesn’t inspire confidence in the execution of projects under this administration.
“And, of course, you have the great expectations regarding the Argyle International Airport, and there are people who are putting their heads down in the sand and ignoring many of the issues that have been raised by us and other responsible people in the past.”
The EC$729 million airport is expected to begin operating on Feb. 14, six years behind schedule.
Friday said the opposition will continue to raise the issue, noting that that is their job.
“… we have to point out things that cause us concern. If the government can address them in a persuasive way, and I am convinced, then so be it. But if I see that there is something that raises my concern regarding a project, then I will raise it and we have very many examples around this country to justify scepticism on the part of ourselves and the opposition party and other right-thinking people in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, other objective observers who look at these things and say, ‘Why is it being done this way? Have you guys considered this? Why is it that the projects are not executed in the way that you expect of projects of this magnitude? Why is there so much secrecy regarding it?’ and so on and so forth,” Friday said.
In addition to the South Leeward Highway, a number of large potholes have opened up in a stretch of road recently rehabilitated in Marriaqua.