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Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan cuts the ribbon to open the Curepe Interchange with China Railway Company and NIDCO officials yesterday.

PETER CHRISTOPHER

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Despite a still-to-be-settled land acquisition deal, the flyover of the Curepe Interchange was officially open to the public yesterday.

“The interchange is open. It is fully utilised but there will be some work continuing in terms of the repaving of the highway, beautification and some minor drainage work. We are hoping to have a full handover over the next two weeks and then we will have a formal opening of the interchange and you’ll see the lights, the lighting of the bridge,” said Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan at the Interchange yesterday.

The flyover, which is central to the entire working of the overpass, now allows for both north and south bound traffic along the Southern Main Road in Curepe to traverse over the Churchill Roosevelt Highway, whereas previously they would have had to wait at a traffic light to filter into their respective lanes.

The Minister had announced at the sod turning for the estimated $221 million project in January 2019, that it was expected to be completed by November of last year.

The Minister explained that the land acquisition deal, which still had a few landowners seeking settlement before the court, delayed the delivery date.

“When we looked at the November timeline we anticipated an earlier start-up date, but we must remember that the Prime Minister turned the sod in January of last year and there were some challenges in some instances in acquisition process which I am happy to say that so far we have reached some conclusions (with) most of the landowners and the rest are in negotiation stage,” he said.

“That process now is between the homeowners and I think the court now has to determine if they were offered a fair valuation.”

He could not, however, confirm how many residents were still seeking settlement.

As the Minister spoke, workers were busy removing a traffic light that had regulated traffic along the West Bound lane. He said despite this he was pleased with the time taken to complete the interchange inspite of the challenge of the landowners as well as the continuous flow of traffic at the junction.

To facilitate the completion, the Interchange had been listed as one of the essential construction works listed under the Public Health Ordinance imposed due to the COVID-19 crisis.

“This project was one of the projects that would have been approved by the Minister of Health. The reason for that, we could have implemented the social distancing based on the type of work that had to be done. The contractors did work over the stay at home period to complete most of the heavy work,” said Sinanan.

Focus the Minister said, would now switch to the Diego Martin Interchange, which he said could begin work in six weeks. The tender for that Interchange he said, had already been sent out, and a contract was expected to be signed this week.

While he was hopeful the project would alleviate traffic congestions, he also noted that there continued to be a significant number of cars on public roads.

“On a daily basis we have a lot of new vehicles being added and that is why the road network has to be enhanced and the next stage will be the two interchanges; one in Piarco and the other in Macoya. The tenders for these two interchanges have already gone out. And we are hoping for the designs and all the traffic steadies everything coming out from that shortly,” he said.