By Orville Williams
Though significant progress has been made with work on some of the island’s major roadways, there are fresh concerns from the police, specifically with the road markings now being done in some areas.
The government’s Road Infrastructure Rehabilitation project has not been without its fair share of criticism over the last few years, with delays and public disagreements between the government and the contractor – Bahamas Hot Mix (BHM) – tainting attitudes toward the widely heralded venture.
Now, while a lot of the ‘harder’ work has already been completed, there are still some issues – according to Head of the Traffic Department in the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda, Superintendent Rodney Ellis.
“Some of the major concerns are that the marking on the roads, some of them are new to some of our drivers. With regard to turning lanes, we only have one on the Sir George Walter Highway…if you’re coming from Sprugoo’s to turn into Gourmet Basket.
“The plan – [as] I understood it to be – was supposed to [include] two roundabouts, one at Dee’s [Service Station] and one at Sprugoo’s. The one at Sprugoo’s is erected already and that’s working well for now, [but] the issue there is, whichever direction you’re travelling in and you want to turn across the line of traffic, you cannot do that.
“You would have to go to either roundabout, turn around and get into the lane that you can turn. But [without a] roundabout at Dee’s, if you’re travelling northbound and you want to go to that car wash or the apartment on the eastern side, you may have to go up into Pigotts, turn and come back – because you’re not permitted to go across the line of traffic, based on the marking on the road,” Ellis explained.
The absence of one initially proposed roundabout is not Ellis’ only issue, as he notes another difficulty in the positioning of the structures. The one by Sprugoo’s, he said, should have shifted more to the south, so persons coming off Factory Road would be able to see it earlier.
“When I made that proposal for them to shift it, [the] engineer was in agreement, but you know it comes with a cost and they are sticking to their budget and contract.
“The one at the airport and the one at Cedar Grove I could understand, because they would have to acquire land to get it right. [However] the one at Sprugoo’s definitely could have shifted more to the south, because they have space on the southern side which would have made it much easier.”
The traffic head also criticized the decision to install two lanes on the Sir George Walter Highway, heading from the direction of the airport. He insisted that the better idea would have been to put the turning lanes for [the other] businesses on either side, similar to what was done on Friars Hill Road.
“The information I got in a meeting is that there is a [high] volume of traffic coming from the airport. I don’t know where they got that idea from, because [I’ve been] in the organization for over 30 years and even in the last five years – [where] we had an increase in vehicles, over 43,000 registered on the road – we have not seen a buildup of traffic there.
“The [high] volume of traffic is not on that road, whether in the tourist season where there’s a lot of flights on the ground. The most traffic that you would find on our roads is on All Saints Road, Old Parham Road, Factory Road and Sir Sydney Walling Highway.”
With these observations made and concerns raised, Superintendent Ellis is lamenting the insistence of the contractors to follow the contract, which has detailed instructions for markings. He believes the issues that are now arising should validate the need for certain adjustments.
“Now that things are being placed, we’re starting to see some deficiencies and we’re making representations to get them rectified. The major problem that we face [is] these persons want to stick to their contract.
“You have to understand, if there is a deficiency, then we should be in a position to make some adjustments [and] I can say it here…the Traffic Commissioner has the authority to stop and ask them to remove the markings on the roads. So, with regard to the paintings, we can stop [them] if they are not erected properly or they are causing obstruction or difficulty for the road users.”
Ellis also said considerations are being given to calls for Old Parham Road and Factory Road to be reconfigured into one-way roads. Traffic congestion – particularly within peak hours – is the chief complaint from motorists travelling on these roads and he said he is in agreement with the rationale behind that prospective adjustment.
“I’m for that, too, but it will take some discussion and the lawmakers and so have to be involved, but it’s a proposal that we are pushing. I believe it would work better, because [there would be] two lanes going either way.
So, if you’re driving slower than I, I can just always keep in that other lane and get by. That’s a good idea that we can look at, because you have to take into consideration now [that] 10, 15 years ago, we didn’t have so many vehicles on the road.” Efforts to contact Bahamas Hot Mix (BHM) – the company charged with completing the project – for comment, went unanswered up to press time.