File photo from February shows workers from the Ministry of Works and Transport repairing potholes along the Naparima/Mayaro Main Road in Rio Claro.

A $5 million pothole patching exercise will be rolled out across the country before Christmas to repair the thousands of potholes, craters, sinks and bumps that have become a living nightmare for motorists.

The initiative, undertaken by the Ministry of Works and Transport in collaboration with the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) and the 14 regional corporations, started on Thursday. To upgrade dilapidated roads, the three bodies will apply 6,000 tonnes of asphalt to streets and roads that are riddled with potholes.

Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan said in early 2022 other road rehabilitation and paving programmes will come on stream. The minister, who spoke with the Sunday Guardian alongside deputy permanent secretary Navin Ramsingh and director of highways Anil Mohansigh, said the potholes come in varying dept, shapes and sizes.

“A pothole is not just the asphalt gone. Is different things does cause that,” he explained, adding that a leaking pipeline can cause the foundation of a road to sink.

“That is why you see some craters…remember you see people bathing in (these potholes) that is because the (burst) water line was there for so long it eroded the foundation and move the dirt to create a swimming pool…that is why they say the beach closed, let we bathe in the road.”

Sinanan said 90 per cent of the craters were the result of WASA taking months to address leaking pipelines. While WASA is responsible for repairing a road after fixing a ruptured pipeline, this seldom occurs.

“Nobody cares that is WASA who digging up the road or is WASA who ain’t fix the road and that is why it in that condition. The first person to blame is the Ministry of Works,” he said.

According to Sinanan, only 21 per cent of roads—highways and main roads—are under his ministry’s jurisdiction. Maintenance of secondary and branch roads are under the purview of the regional corporations. Some roads are classified as agricultural access, orphaned and private.

WASA and the corporations will use their labour and equipment for the pothole repair programme while the ministry will supply asphalt.

The initiative started on Thursday with 20 pothole patching crews and will increase to 40 next week. Road repairs were done in the Siparia, San Juan/Laventille and Penal/Debe Regional Corporations as well as parts of St Andrew/St David, Caroni, Victoria East/West, Nariva/Mayaro and St Patrick.

In February, the ministry estimated that approximately 50 per cent of roads are in fair-to-poor condition.

In recent months, motorists have posted videos and pictures on social media highlighting the poor state of roads. Residents have staged fiery protests demanding swift action.

Sinanan said repaving all the roads will cost the Government billions of dollars and re-sheeting and repairing will have to be done incrementally.

He denied claims that there are more potholes and dilapidated roads in south Trinidad: “The protests are in the UNC areas. Let us be frank because there is an election on December 6. The UNC can’t go Tobago, so they campaigning in Trinidad.”

“Potholes are throughout Trinidad. South is in no way different to anywhere else. I could carry you all over the East/West Corridor but nobody burning tyres.”

The minister added: “Roads have a lifespan and are very expensive to maintain. Over the last couple of years the ministry would not have been getting the sort of funding it would have been accustomed to do repaving. That is why we try to do a lot of spot paving meaning the bad areas we fix. We are hoping to go a little further than that once the funding is available because we have to maintain the network.”

The ministry has been provided with additional funding in the 2022 budget to maintain secondary roads.