Due to a cut in expenditure, the Ministry of Works and Transport has had to scale back on extensive paving of roads and highways and is doing patch paving instead.
This is the situation as complaints continue to pour in from angry motorists, passengers and communities about the deteriorating conditions of T&T’s road network.
While admitting that many roads have fallen into disrepair, Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan is blaming the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) for the deplorable state of roads over the years. He said while repairing roads and highways remains a priority for his ministry, his biggest challenge is funding.
“We are hoping now with the funding available we can start a new programme after February. Roads have to be resurfaced on a timely basis or else you would have deterioration on the roads . . . funding is a problem, s that is why what we are doing now is a lot of paved patching, meaning that rather than fix the entire road we look at certain areas in the road and mill it out and repave it…and we have a lot of that going on, even on our highways, to maintain its standard.”
Sinanan said every three years a conditional survey is done on the nation’s roads, “so we would have an idea on the conditions of the roads under the Ministry of Works. This tells us which roads are in good condition . . . which roads and fair and which reads are really bad.”
The Works Ministry is responsible for the maintenance of highways and main roads only.
“On our roads highways and main roads) I would say we have about a 70 per cent approval rating,” Sinanan said
Maintenance of secondary and branch roads are under the purview of the 14 regional corporations and some roads are also classified as agricultural access and orphaned.
“All the other roads that you see, if you drive through Port-of-Spain the number of holes you see in the city of Port-of-Spain, we are not responsible for that. That is the City Corporation. Most of the roads that people complain about are not roads under the Ministry of Works. A lot of times when you drive into a pothole the first person you looking to cuss is the Minister of Works and 90 per cent of the problems on the roads are caused by WASA’s ageing infrastructure (leaking pipelines),” he said,
In some cases, the water company takes months to address a leak which destroys the road.
He pointed out: “It is also WASA’s responsibility to restore the road after repairing a broken pipeline.”
In 2017, the Works Ministry rolled out a paving programme to upgrade roads which is still in progress.
“As we speak, two months after the 2020 general election, we have over 150 projects ongoing. That is not a normal scenario. A lot of people are telling me now they have never seen so much paving going on after an election and that is proof that we were not just paving for election.”
Last month, the ministry resurfaced the Couva Main Road and other roads in central Trinidad, Tunapuna, Tacarigua and Macoya got a fresh layer of asphalt.
Sinanan also blamed overweight trucks traversing the roads daily for some of the damage.
Transport Commissioner Clive Clarke said a number of trucks transporting aggregates and building materials for contractors often exceed the permissible weight.
“What we need to do is increase the level of enforcement so we can contribute towards the road rehabilitation and maintenance programme,” Clarke said, adding that the Highways Division and Licensing Division will place mobile weight control scales on highways and roads to determine if vehicles are overweight.
He said a recent report showed that 95 per cent of the trucks that use the roadways are overweight. The fine for an overloaded truck is $2,000.
Sinanan said several drivers have already been charged for committing this offence and accrued points on their driving permits under the demerit points system.
“The repercussions for the drivers are not as severe. If you transport 15 loads for the day and if you get pulled over once you are still ahead of the game,” he said.
He said there is a need for “some kind of mechanism” where either the truck or the materials on these overweight trucks can be ceased which might serve as a bigger deterrent.”