An estimated 280,000 man-hours were lost in the traffic hold-up on the Beetham Highway over the last two days, says the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (Doma). This was caused when part of the highway at Sea Lots, Port-of-Spain, collapsed on Wednesday. In an interview yesterday, the association’s president Gregory Aboud said: “We estimate that an additional three hours were required by more than 60,000 people yesterday (Wednesday) in trying to make their way from east and south Trinidad to Port-of-Spain. “This, calculated roughly, meant there were some 180,000 lost man-hours due to the hole in the highway. “Also, another 100,000 man-hours could have been lost on Wednesday,” he said.
The bigger loss, however, according to Aboud, was the loss of confidence caused by the realisation that, after 50 years of independence, there were still few new options available in road infrastructure. “Ever since I was a child I have heard about a highway along the coast from Port-of-Spain to Chaguanas, a highway to Chaguaramas and another highway to Diego Martin,” he said. Aboud said areas like Maraval and St Ann’s had only one access and exit point. “If you get blocked in Cocorite or Maraval, you would have a catastrophic situation,” he said. Asked if he felt the authorities properly handled the traffic situation caused by the hole, he replied: “I don’t want to answer that question.” He added, though, “They have failed, in that they have not created new options over the last 50 years...It’s a very unfortunate situation.” Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) CEO Dr Stephen Ramroop said it was the responsibility of the relevant ministry (the Ministry of Works) to alert citizens to the hole in the road. He said the Ministry of Works, fittingly, released a statement on the matter shortly after the incident.
Ramroop said the early-warning system concerning the hole was very good and most of his commendation for this went, in large part, to the general citizenry. “A lot of it (alerting people) came from the public...The first driver who saw the hole might have called the Fire Service or some agency.” Ramroop said social networking, through Facebook and Twitter, would have also helped citizens alert each other. He said the ODPM had a national response co-ordinating function and had to be the “brain” in an emergency situation that could develop into a potentially dangerous one. The ODPM got a budget allocation of $33 million this fiscal year and $30 million for the last one. The ODPM’s response to the hole in the road would depend on the alert phase, Ramrooop said, adding that the early alert phase was so good, it resulted in no injury. He said the Ministries of National Security, Transport and Works were responsible for creating alternative routes for drivers in such a situation, and the ODPM’s role was to monitor the traffic changes for possible congestion. He thought the authorities did an excellent job, he said.