In June 2021, CAF--Development Bank of Latin America--granted a loan of US$175 million ($1.19 billion) to T&T, with the objective of modernising the transportation infrastructure in the country.
In a release announcing the loan, CAF stated, “The loan will be used for institutional strengthening, particularly updating plans, strategies and modernising the regulatory framework of process management, such as updating laws related to land transport, developing a policy for the maritime sector, plan strategies for public transport and the air sector, quality systems, etc. Additionally, the credit will tackle activities to improve the quality of infrastructure, with initiatives such as feasibility studies, modernisation of roads, ports and airports, road maintenance, among others.”
CAF added the loan will support management, planning, and investment aimed at promoting the modernisation of infrastructure and quality transportation services that will contribute to economic diversification and productivity gains.
When contacted, Works and Transport Minister Sinanan said the details of the loan and what had been dispersed for the works could only be answered by the Ministry of Finance. The Business Guardian did not get a response from the Finance Ministry concerning the loan.
However, CAF confirmed, “To date, US$140 million ($952 million from the Sector Wide Approach Programme for a Modernised Transportation Infrastructure (approved in July 2021) have been disbursed.”
CAF stated the loan was not merely linked to specific projects as it stated, “This type of loan is not linked to specific projects, but seeks to sustain and foster institutional strengthening efforts in the sector, including updating plans, strategies and regulatory frameworks related to air, sea, land and urban transport. In this way, it contributes to improve the quality of infrastructure, with initiatives such as feasibility studies, modernisation of roads, ports and airports, road maintenance, among others.”
However in October’s budget, Finance Minister Colm Imbert made it clear that the loan had been figured into the Government’s plans for 2022, specifically through ongoing and upcoming highway improvement projects.
Minister Imbert said, “The Development Bank of Latin America (CAF) is providing a sector-wide approach programme loan of US$175 million for a modernised transportation infrastructure that is consistent with the objectives of the pipeline projects which the bank is already financing.” Those projects were the Solomon Hochoy Highway Extension to Point Fortin, the Churchill Roosevelt to Sangre Grande, the Diego Martin Overpass, and the Valencia to Toco roadway.
The long-awaited Point Fortin Highway has been under construction for over a decade, but Minister Imbert said the CAF loan would be used to fund a significant chunk of the project.
In his presentation, Imbert said, “The completed highway will make a crucial contribution to the development and growth of the communities connected by the highway, including Debe, Mon Desir, Fyzabad, La Brea and Point Fortin. In 2022, the priority link is scheduled to be completed: Dumfries to Dunlop and Fyzabad to Mon Desir.”
Nidco told the Business Guardian that work is currently ongoing on a priority link of the Solomon Hochoy Highway Extension to Point Fortin. This involves the construction of 29.5 km of 4-lane highway which will extend from Dumfries Road (La Romain) to Dunlop Roundabout (Point Fortin). Nidco stated five of 12 packages in this phase are completed including the upgrade and widening of six km of the South Trunk road and the construction of six bridges.
As for the remaining seven packages, work is underway concerning the construction of “five interchanges located at Oropouche Junction, Mon Desir, Grants Road, La Brea and Guapo, two overpass bridges located at Delhi Road and Southern Main Road (Vance River) and 23.5 km of 4 lanes rural arterial highway.”
Nidco estimated the project to be approximately 85 per cent completed with the Dumfries Road (La Romain) to Dunlop Roundabout stretch expected to be opened to traffic by the last quarter of 2022.
Minister Imbert also detailed the loan would be used for the Valencia to Toco Road, which he said will increase opportunities for business and economic investments for the eastern region, in particular the communities between Matelot and Sangre Grande.
He stated in the presentation that construction on that road is expected to commence in 2022.
According to a post in March on the Ministry of Works and Transport’s Youtube Channel page work on that project has progressed well, as the clip detailing the scope of works explained by PURE programme director Hayden Phillip stated, “This extensive project is currently 69 per cent completed.”
Nidco, in response to the Business Guardian’s questions concerning progress on the project stated, “The CEC for the project was granted in April 2021. The project has been divided into ten segments for ease of construction. Detailed designs have been completed for seven out of the ten segments. All designs should be completed by August 2022.”
The extension of the Churchill Roosevelt Highway to Sangre Grande was also among the projects funded by the loan.
Nidco said, “the construction of the 5km highway segment east of the Cumuto Main Road is approximately 80 per cent completed, with works on both packages expected to be completed in August 2022. In December 2021, a Certificate of Environmental Clearance was granted for the construction of the other segments of the highway from Wallerfield to Sangre Grande. “
Nidco stated it is “now moving ahead to establish connectivity between Cumuto and Sangre Grande. The construction of a 2km Connector Road from the end of the current construction works to the Eastern Main Road is expected to commence in August 2022.”
As for the construction of vehicular and pedestrian bridge in Diego Martin, work began in March 2021, with the Finance Minister stating he expected the project to be completed in 2022. Nidco confirmed work completed to date included the construction of a bridge and the abutment walls and centre pier; retaining walls –on the eastern side of the overpass.
Nidco also noted significant drainage work was done on the Diego Martin Highway, Cocorite Farms and the Western Main Road with “Key improvements to the drainage system completed to date include the construction of a new box culvert under the Diego Martin Highway in the vicinity of Powder Magazine and a double-pipe culvert under the Western Main Road just east of Massy Stores, Westmoorings, which is expected to relieve flooding in the area.”
Additionally, Nidco stated crucial road works have begun north of the Columbus Boulevard and Western Main Road intersection, the connecting the Intersection to the overpass, with the necessary utility relocations are in progress to facilitate the construction in the area.
Nidco did not issue a completion date on the Diego Martin project.
A fifth project was also slated to be funded by the CAF loan.
In the Budget presentation, Minister Imbert also listed the Macoya Interchange project, which is part of the process of eliminating traffic lights in the East-West Corridor along the Churchill Roosevelt Highway, as one of the projects to be funded by the loan. Minister Imbert said the construction of the Macoya interchange is expected to commence in 2022.
In the Ministry of Works and Transport’s year in review, Minister Rohan Sinanan hailed that his Ministry was able to do more with less, given the country’s economic standing following the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said, “Despite our economic climate. For the first time in the history of T&T, we have four major infrastructure highway projects ongoing simultaneously.”
While the significant focus has been on these major highway projects, motorists around the country have complained about the state of commonly used roadways around the country, a fact even Minister Sinanan reflected upon in his 2021 review.
He said, “I have noted with great concern the displeasure of the general public as it relates to the current condition of some of our roads. We have not stuck our heads in the sand at the ministry nor have we passed the buck, better needs to be done. But given the current economic standings, we will continue to address these challenges head-on in a strategic manner that will allow for the best use of taxpayers’ dollars.”