You could hear the groan from Devil’s Bridge in the East to Point in the West. Nobody in Antigua was honking a horn for joy at the news making the rounds on Monday that the second Road Infrastructure Rehabilitation Project was to begin shortly. The planned roads to be resurfaced are Valley Road, Old Parham Road, Anchorage Road and Sir Sydney Walling Highway. Oh no! Minister Weston! Give us a breather! We are a road-weary people! We can’t take anymore of the four ‘d’s’ of this current road rehabilitation project – the dust, the interminable delays, the blatant disrespect and the diversions to roads that make the nightmare roads in the hinterlands of Guyana look like the autobahns in Germany.
Clearly, our dreadful experience with Bahamas Hot Mix (BHM) has sapped our enthusiasm for any more major road work. In light of the astounding bungle of the Sir George Walter Highway and the Friars Hill Road, Antiguans and Barbudans are in no mood to abide more road work. Certainly not while BHM is still cluelessly spinning wheels in mud. Of course, this is not to suggest that C. O. Williams, the Barbadian company that has been awarded the contract for the second rehabilitation project, is anything like BHM. Nay. No road construction company can be anything nearly as ridiculous and as slothful as BHM. In any event, C.O. Williams has done road work here for us in the past, and their workmanship has withstood the test of time.
In addition, we are only hearing talk of a road resurfacing project with small lateral extensions to accommodate bus shelters. All well and good. The fanciful and grandiose talk of a state-of-the-art roadway, replete with sidewalks, bus shelters, roundabouts, pedestrian walkways, mass property seizures be eminent domain and all of that pipe-dream fiddle-faddle are not planned for these roads. Mercifully! Seems, this is just a good old-fashioned resurfacing, one that any road company worth its asphalt mix should be able to complete in short order, on schedule, and with minimum disruption and aggravation.
Of course, BHM has, by its mismanagement of the Sir George Walter Highway and the Friars Hill Road, left C.O. Williams with a roadmap for what not to do when undertaking a road rehabilitation project. For one thing, don’t promise much and deliver little. Precious little! To say that we have been underwhelmed by BHM is putting it mildly. Moreover, we are asking you to please bring the requisite expertise, manpower and equipment. And employ as many Antiguans and Barbudans as possible. And not merely as traffic directors. Please fix one road at at time. And in sections, and at night, to avoid long traffic snarls during the day. And do not grade all four roadways, then abandon three of them to work on one, at a snail’s pace. In short, take a good look at every blessed thing that BHM did wrong and avoid those potholes. Do not blame the September rains, insufficient aggregate material, or the Antigua Public Utilities Authority for any delays.
And please, in the name of all that is good, do not have the audacity to take the government and people of Antigua and Barbuda to arbitration for an extension of the completion date with pay. After all, we will be servicing that hefty EC$63 million loan from the Caribbean Development Bank for many years hence, and as our good Minister Weston declared, “[We want to make sure] that the government and people of Antigua and Barbuda get value for money.”