Works and Infrastructure Minister Emmanuel George yesterday apologised to the people of Trinidad and Tobago for the inconvenience caused as a result of the sinkhole on the westbound carriageway of the Beetham Highway near Sea Lots on Wednesday afternoon. The highway was closed after contractor Junior Sammy was hired to do repairs. It was reopened to traffic shortly after 7 am yesterday. The hole was filled with concrete, and metal sheets were placed on top of it to allow drivers to use the road for most of yesterday. It was expected to be closed again at 9 pm last night to allow the contractor to complete the work by repaving the repaired area. Speaking during yesterday’s post-Cabinet news conference at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s, George said Sammy was chosen to do the repair work because “he had demonstrated that he had the capability to do this kind of thing and to do it quickly.” He said the ministry did not have the equipment, manpower or human resource skills to do the repair work.
“You had to get a competent contractor to do this work and Junior Sammy was the best of the lot and that is why he was called in,” he said. “We couldn’t, as the Ministry of Works, undertake this work, because all now we’d be excavating. “Other than that, you would have had a highway as important as the Beetham out of operation for several days...We had problems yesterday with traffic and this morning with virtual gridlock.”
George was unable to give the cost of the repair work. He dismissed speculation that the roadway collapsed because of recent work done by WASA, saying the road caved in after a culvert collapsed, and it was not related to work done by that state organisation. George said the problem could not have been allowed to remain unresolved for more than one day, as it was on a major artery in the city’s road network. “It caused considerable distress,” he added. He said the integrity of the eastbound carriageway is to be checked to ensure that it was safe for road users. “We plan to look on the other side and using remotely controlled cameras, we can check and see what is the status of the culvert.” He said if any work had to be done on the eastbound carriageway, it would be undertaken on weekends to limit the inconvenience. George then said: “I want to take this opportunity to say to the people of Trinidad and Tobago, who were discomfited by this: we are sorry, and our apologies to all of you. We thank you for your patience and understanding, but this could not have been predicted.”
Workers, schoolchildren and thousands of other citizens were significantly inconvenienced by the collapse of the road. There was gridlock and snarled traffic along the Priority Bus Route for several hours yesterday morning from Trincity in the east to Port-of-Spain. Traffic also snaked into Port-of-Spain along the Uriah Butler Highway. People were seen walking from Curepe, along the bus route to St Joseph and Mt Hope. The problem was compounded as maxi-taxi drivers refused to come into the capital city and dropped off commuters in Curepe. Bus drivers employed by PTSC, who have embarked on a work-to-rule, also failed to show up for work yesterday morning, compounding the chaos and causing people to be stranded all over the country. A release issued later by the ministry said the Beetham Highway was to be closed to all traffic between Abattoir Road and the lighthouse from 9 pm last night until 1 am today. It advised drivers to use Lady Young Road, Eastern Main Road and the St Joseph Flyover close to NP. WASA, in a statement issued yesterday, also said it was not responsible for the sink hole.