–contractor granted up to February 14 to complete project
PAVING of the Sheriff Street-Mandela Avenue, through the ongoing expansion project, is 98 per cent completed, but authorities have said that the full completion and ceremonial handing over of the infrastructure will be done by February 14, owing to challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is expected that paving of the road will be completed within 48 hours, but other important works will stretch into next year.
Minister of Public Works, Juan Edghill, during an inspection of the project on Tuesday, was told that works that are yet to be completed include the installation of street lights, poles for street signs, completion of the road markings, and the installation of guard rails.
Majority of the equipment needed for those aspects of work have already arrived in Guyana with the remainder expected to arrive in the next few weeks.
“The new deadline is to accommodate COVID-19 delays only,” Minister Edghill said, adding: “We have agreed with the Inter-American Development Bank [IDB] that as a result of COVID-related delays all the other works, apart from this 600m paving, should and must be completed by 14 February, 2022.”
Notwithstanding the works remaining, Minister Edghill said that Guyanese will have a fairly completed road at least by Christmas.
During the minister’s site visit, contractors had begun the installation of the street lights, of which 325 will run along the entire seven km road.
“For Christmas, we should have a road that is facilitating swifter access, where a significant amount of street lights are already installed, signs and markings are adequately put out, bike lanes adequately demarcated and the contractor starts dismantling and cleaning up,” Minister Edghill related.
The portion of the road that is to be completed is a stretch of Sheriff Street, next to the Lamaha Bridge, and behind the Botanical Gardens.
Edghill said that the weather and delays in shipping played major roles in affecting the completion of this project.
“Every Guyanese knows the kind of rainfall we would have had over the past few weeks. It would not have been all day rain but you cannot pave once the road is wet, so we’ve had some delays.
“And the 600m, is the last portion of paving that needs to be done and that should be completed within the next 48 to 72 hours providing that good weather prevails. So, we are on our way to practical completion,” Edghill commented.
He said that significant delay in the execution of the project under the previous government would have also contributed to changes in certain aspects, which also affected the cost.
“This project should’ve been finished years ago and the price for materials would’ve changed from then to now. We would’ve had to hold the contractor to prices at the signing of the contract.
“We were supposed to have done a crack seal on the old road and build a new road on top. But because of the time elapsed, the road had deteriorated so badly we ended up using quantities that were more than the original bill,” Edghill related.
Funded through a US$31 million loan from the IDB, works on the Sheriff Street-Mandela Avenue Expansion Project first commenced in August 2018, following the signing of a contract with Sinohydro Corporation Limited in November 2017.
Since then, the project has seen numerous delays and deadline extensions. It was initially scheduled to commence in March 2017 and be completed within a 24-month period.
In November 2019, the project suffered a suspension after the IDB halted funding due to health and safety violations by the contractor. The project did not restart until the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) assumed office in August, last year.
Edghill said he is very satisfied with how he had been able to push the project to completion since taking over the ministry.
“I am satisfied that since I am Minister of Public Works, I got what I paid for. Members from my team are shocked, surprised and extremely pleased that we are able to get here so fast based on all the problems we have had on the project before my arrival. This is a success project, we moved mountains to get this project to where it is today,” he commented.
Once completed, the project will boast a two-lane roadway along Sheriff Street and a four-lane thoroughfare, with a central concrete median and shared-use paths along Mandela Avenue. There is also a roundabout at the intersection of Sheriff and David Streets.
NEW TO GUYANA
Notwithstanding the Sheriff Street aspect of the project being a two lane roadway, a section of the road at the intersection with the Rupert Craig Highway is a four lane section, while several sections of the road, where there are intersections, have seen the implementation of a third, turning lane; this is a feature new to Guyana’s roadways.
Over the past few weeks many drivers have complained about the roadway markings. And during the site visit, Minister Edghill took time to clarify some of the issues with those markings. He said that it will take Guyanese some time to get used to the new feature.
“Let me apologise. We should have done something better, in that we should have mounted a public education campaign, and I take full responsibility for not doing that. It is new for Guyana because we have never seen markings like this and this would cause some confusion,” Edghill acknowledged.
He said that going forward, more effort will be put into sensitising Guyanese about how to operate on the roadway, while markings and signage will be done along the roadway to properly direct drivers.
Edghill related that the outline of the road was, in fact, done the way it was done in order to minimise collisions and other incidents through safe, accommodating turning lanes
“We have to remember that we are in an urban centre, where there are several turn offs and we have to give people access.
“And as part of the design, those facilities were put in place to ensure safety. Looking nice is not our number one priority, people’s safety is our number one priority. It is intended to ensure safety and orderly movement of traffic,” he posited.