Commuters faced severe traffic yesterday morning after residents blocked Grant Road and parts of the Southern Main Road, Rousillac with dirt and burning debris to protest the deplorable road conditions. Residents of Grant Road began the action from about 3.30 am in an attempt to get the authorities to fix the roads their pleas through their councilors over the years have fallen on deaf ears.
Resident Marlene Sankar, a widow, said for the past month she has spent a lot of money in parts for her vehicle which is frequently damaged on the pothole-riddled road.
She said, “The residents are very frustrated. Every day we have to pass on this road. We have been asking over and over from the last government to the same government again, nothing is being done. So this morning we decided to come out and vent our frustration.”
If they get no response, Sankar said they would continue the protest action. At least eight areas along Grant Road and the Southern Main Road were blocked, creating a gridlock along the main road. Grant Road is the connector road to the San Fernando to Point Fortin Highway.
“I don’t think that anybody in Trinidad would like to live in a place like this. This is where I born and grow up and as far as I can remember we always have this kind of road. We always have to beg and come out here and protest and we still don’t get it done, but we not giving up,” said Sankar. Clint Arjoon, a resident and representative of the Fyzabad Chamber of Commerce, said the poor road infrastructure is also affecting business in the area.
“For the business community it causes people from out of this area not to come in and patronize our business and it is very difficult for all business people in this area. The roads are terrible and it is very difficult for the residents as well.”
He said the roads are also bad at Silverstream, Delhi Road, and Dow Village.
“For people who do business with us who are out of this area San Fernando and further parts of the country choose not to venture to come and do business with us because of the fact the roads are impassable sometimes when rain falls on this particular spot here, here is flooded so low vehicles cannot pass here at all.”
He said when the sun is hot the road is dusty and when the rain falls the road floods.
“When we had the last contractor that was dealing with the highway which was OAS, all secondary roads leading to the highway that was being used by the contractors was fully maintained drainage, patching of the roads. We never had a problem.”
He said when the dry dock is built Grant Road will be the main artery to reach the highway. Former government minister Ralph Maraj who is developing family lands in the area to do agriculture said he sent a Whatsapp Message to Works Minister Rohan Sinanan about the condition of the road and he responded about two weeks ago indicating that he would look into it.
“I have been a victim of this road. I have been coming here regularly over the past few weeks and the road is in an atrocious condition and it needs to be fixed. Whilst I do not support blocking the roads I can empathize, I sympathize with the people I understand their plight and this has to be fixed.”
Otaheite/Rousillac councilor Javed Mohammed and Mon Desir councilor Deryck Bowrin complained that numerous letters sent to the ministry on behalf of the residents requesting that the road be fixed have been ignored.
Bowrin said, “These residents are not protesting people but they fed up. They are totally fed up. There are holes here that are 17 feet square and I’m not kidding and it is unfair that these residents have to traverse this road on a daily basis with no sort of compensation for the damage to their vehicles.”
Noting that other roads were paved during the election season, he questioned whether the lack of response from the government to the residents’ plight was political.
Mohammed said they had even suggested that the Ministry supply the material and the corporation would provide the machinery and labour to fix the road, but they got no response.
A press release from Ministry of Works and Transport stated that remedial works on Grant Road were expected to start this week but was postponed to next week due to the inclement whether.
Expressing great concern over the protest action taken by residents, the ministry noted that the road is currently being used extensively by commuters as the major access route to La Brea and Point Fortin, while work is being done in the highway.
“Grants Road is classified as a secondary road under the Ministry of Works and Transport, however it was recognized that since this road was also being utilized by trucks and heavy equipment, immediate patching works became necessary.”
It stated that tenders were invited to conduct remedial works on Grants Road earlier this year, and Carib Asphalt Pavers Limited was awarded the contract around August 28. “Remedial works were scheduled to commence this week, however, due to the inclement weather the contractor Carib Asphalt Pavers Limited stated that works would now be scheduled for next week.”
However, the ministry noted that at the completion of the highway project, the ministry will conduct full road rehabilitation works along Grants Road, but in the interim every effort will be made to continue to keep the road in a satisfactory condition for the travelling public. While it understands the challenges faced by community, the ministry stated that this type of protest action further compromises the integrity of the road infrastructure.
The ministry apologised for any inconvenience caused and promised to work with the community to complete all road rehabilitation works in the area in the shortest possible timeframe.