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Namalco managing director Naeem Ali right with Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan second right and NIDCO officials looks on as part of the Highway in Parrylands, La Brea is being paved by Namalco Construction Service Limited during the Minister tour yesterday.

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Despite COVID-19 lockdowns and significant rainfall in the past months, Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan says none of the five contractors on the Solomon Hochoy Highway to Point Fortin project has submitted claims for cost overruns.

Sinanan and a team from the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure and the National Infrastructure Development Company (NIDCO) toured the highway project from San Fernando to Point Fortin yesterday.

The project, which began in 2011, has suffered significant delays due to court injunctions, the initial contractor Construtora OAS abandoning the project and geotechnical issues.

Completion was set for the end of this year, but in August, NIDCO told Guardian Media that it revised the completion to the middle or late 2022 due to COVID-19 restrictions on the construction industry.

“Fortunately, at the Ministry of Works and NIDCO, we have been working within our budgets. So far, this project is still within our budget, and I must say it is being managed very good by NIDCO. The contractors are on-site and understand the situation that we are in, and they are working with us,” Sinanan said.

Standing at the Mosquito Creek segment of the highway which connects San Fernando to South Oropouche, Sinanan said this area was swamplands and previously below sea level.

Sinanan said that Junior Sammy Contractors Ltd was able to work with the consulting engineering firm, AECOM, to raise the roadway to avoid flooding.

When completed, he said this would show that local contractors can compete with their counterparts globally.

Asked about the soft soil, NIDCO’s project manager Dennis Harrichan said the contractor overcame this by using a lightweight material to create embankments along the highway.

Harricharan said the contractor completed some of the significant work on this segment, which is now 75 per cent completed.

“We have passed some of the significant issues on this particular project. Roughly, we are at 75 per cent completion, and the intention is to complete some of the outstanding, major structures.

In particular, we have a bridge, it is a massive bridge, that is under construction. We have revetment walls and seawalls that are still under construction, all together, significantly advanced, even amidst the bad weather and COVID-19 shutdown,” Harrichran said.

Sinanan did not want to give a tentative completion date. However, he got an estimated time between January and February 2022.

He said it could be delayed based on the weather patterns.

“We are all aware that we are in a pandemic. If there is another lockdown, God forbids, that would put the project back again, but it all depends on the weather. The contractors are there, they are ready to go, the material is on-site, work is going on, but it all depends on the weather condition.”