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Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan.

The Ministry of Works and Transport plans to construct an interchange at Macoya which will be more elaborate than the $221 million Curepe Interchange.

Details of the proposed interchange were laid out by Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan and the ministry’s chief technical officer Navin Ramsingh during a recent interview with Guardian Media at the ministry’s Port-of-Spain office.

“We are at the point where we are going to Cabinet with the preliminary designs for the Macoya Interchange. The timeline for that is to have a contract awarded at the latter part of 2021,” Sinanan said. The contract, he said, will be awarded through competitive tendering.

Sinanan said he hoped that the “same prices we (ministry) had gotten for the Curepe Interchange” would be maintained for the Macoya Interchange.

“Not necessarily (at) the same cost of the Curepe interchange. We are hoping to use that same level of cost in the design for the Macoya Interchange. If we could accomplish that, then it would be a significant saving for us because the Macoya Intersection is far more elaborate than the Curepe Interchange because of the way it is located and the number of feeder roads you have to put in…”

Under the People’s Partnership government, the Curepe Interchange was projected to cost taxpayers over $500 million. However, when Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s administration assumed office in 2015 the project was re-tendered. In 2017, China Railway Construction Corporation Ltd won the contract for the $221.7 million interchange project which was opened in June.

Ramsingh said the ministry hired a firm to undertake a traffic study for the new interchange. The firm also came up with a conceptual design which will soon be submitted to Cabinet for approval.

Once approval is given, Ramsingh said, a contractor will begin work. The project is expected to be delivered before the first quarter of 2023.

“So basically, what we have done is that we have gotten Cabinet’s approval for the removal of all the signalised intersections up to Orange Grove Road. The next step is to seek Cabinet’s approval to proceed initially with the Macoya Interchange because as everyone is aware the traffic right now builds up at Valsayn South. So when we build this interchange you will have absolutely no traffic until you reach Trincity Intersection.”

Ramsingh said a pre-feasibility study undertaken by local consultants “Besson” showed that the Macoya Interchange will reduce gas emissions, travel time, and bottlenecks for drivers. When the project comes on stream it will also provide jobs for over 200 workers and stimulate the economy.

“The study we do is to try and come up with the most economic solution for the problem we have. The problem we have is really the congestion caused by the traffic lights because the volume of traffic is so high and the delays by the lights are so long.”

The study also identified the best location for the interchange.

Ramsingh said in excess of 57,000 motorists use the 39 kilometres-long Churchill-Roosevelt Highway (CRH) daily.

He said the installation of traffic lights along the CRH was just a temporary measure.

Construction of the Macoya Interchange, Ramsingh said, will see the removal of the UWI, Pasea and Macoya traffic lights to ensure a smooth flow of vehicles.

He said three pedestrian walkovers will also be built–at UWI, Tunapuna, and Macoya for communities.

“As we go further east, the plan has always been that we are not going to interfere with communities. We are going to minimise the impact. So we shall have no social impact on the people. We have identified one property that will be required on the north side. The south side is state lands.”

The ministry will host public consultations with businesses, motorists, and residents to gauge their feedback once Cabinet gives the green light for the project.

“When the interchange is built people who live on the north side will have to go east to the interchange in order to proceed West. So there would be a little of an out-of-way travel. In terms of the timing, it is just about one or two minutes,” Ramsingh said.

Sinanan said they plan to remove all the traffic lights from Port-of-Spain to Sangre Grande to ease the frustrating bottlenecks.

He said there are plans to construct an interchange in Maloney as well as Tumpuna Road, Arima, for vehicles to proceed to Sangre Grande without any hindrance.

Sinanan said once work on the Macoya Interchange reaches a certain stage they will begin preliminary work on the third interchange at Orange Grove, Tacarigua, and then move on to the fourth at the Trincity intersection.

“Again, it would all depend on the funding that is available. If we could complete two interchanges within this five-year term and probably start the third one, we would make back up for the time lost between 2010 and 2015,” the minister said.

Asked if the COVID-19 pandemic will affect the delivery date of this project, Sinanan said in the last nine month several of the ministry’s developmental projects had slowed down due to closure of our borders and health protocols.

“There is a slowdown in the world economy which affects us here. When you have a slowdown…you know, there is no big demand. So there are some advantages there. But there are also some disadvantages in other areas.”