Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan has set aside $300 million to carry out some much-needed road repairs across the country. However, he has admitted that this is but a drop in the bucket considering the scope of road rehabilitation works needed nationwide.
Having been allocated $3.5 billion by Finance Minister Colm Imbert in the 2022 budget, Sinanan said a large chunk of this money will be spent on improving the nation’s roads.
“We accept the fact that the roads need serious maintenance…the road infrastructure definitely is not to the standard where we are comfortable with it,” Sinanan admitted to Guardian Media during a recent interview.
His admittance follows months of fiery protests by frustrated citizens who have been clamouring for better roads in their communities and complaints from motorists about ruptured tyres and thousands of dollars they have to spend to repair their vehicles because they have to traverse roads will with potholes and landslips.
In February, the ministry estimated that 50 per cent of T&T’s roads are in a fair-to-poor condition.
Now, however, they are in a worst off state.
Promising to bring relief to all road users, Sinanan said two new line items were added to the ministry’s road repair and rehabilitation programme by Imbert.
Imbert will provide Sinanan’s ministry with $100 million for the repair of potholes throughout the country. An additional $40 million will be given to fix secondary roads frequently used by motorists.
Inclusive of the $140 million, Sinanan said, the Programme for Upgrading Road Efficiency (PURE), which deals with road rehabilitation and landslips, will be allocated a separate budget.
“And we have already spoken to the minister (Finance) on making additional funding in the mid-year review for that programme.”
The Highways Division also receives funding for road maintenance.
“The money that would have been allocated so far would have been just about $300 million overall for roads. That is really a drop in the bucket for what is required.”
Last month, the ministry teamed up with the 14 regional corporations and the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) to undertake a $5 million nationwide pothole patching exercise.
The minister attributed 90 per cent of the country’s potholes to WASA’s ageing infrastructure and leaking pipelines, with the remaining ten per cent caused by vehicle use, overweight trucks, flooding and poor foundation construction.
“Once those ageing pipelines burst underground they will develop in a pothole. Water is a big enemy to asphalt. I think Trinidad is one of a few countries in the world where you (WASA) would cut across the road to make a connection for a house…and you cut a trench across and road and you run a blue pipe… and then you leave it just like that. Every time a driver goes down into a hole the ministry gets the blame.”
When can motorists see road improvements?
Sinanan said road work is an ongoing exercise.
“As you patch holes more develop. The idea is to get ahead of the game. Patching potholes will not solve the problem because the problem is way bigger than that. We have to have an aggressive road repair programme… repaving and so … because asphalt has a lifespan.”
He said to re-sheet all the nation’s roads would cost billions of dollars.
“I don’t think the economy allows us that luxury right now.”
Sinanan also disclosed that his ministry has in its database close to 500 landslips, some of which have pulled down roads that cannot be repaired.
“In some instances, we have to cut new roads because some landslips would have been done three times in 20 years because of soil movement.”
Most of the land slippages have been occurring in South and Central Trinidad. Of these landslides, Sinanan said 35 were listed as critical.
Every year the ministry, would usually repair around 25 major landslips, Sinanan said.
“But your average landslip budget is between $45 to $75 million. That is just a dot of what is required,” he said.