Local contractor Coosal’s mobilised a team on Monday night and began repairs to the St Helena Bypass road which has been left in a state of disrepair for over three weeks.
This comes after complaints by residents and motorists that condition of the road had the potential to cause serious accidents as drivers dodge craters left behind when the asphalt was removed.
Conditions on the road worsened as heavy rains and flooding over the past two months removed even more material. Guardian Media visited the site and residents of St Helena said they were fearful that the current condition of the road poses a serious safety risk to motorists.
In preparation for repaving two months ago, Coosal’s “dug up” an estimated 1,200 meters of the St Helena Bypass Road, beginning at the St Helena junction and ending just before the Caribbean Airlines Head Office.
However, residents such as 58-year-old Camella Ramharrack, who has lived in the area her entire life, said this was the extent of any repairs made so far to the roadway.
“All I can say is when I was passing on the road towards the old airport there were Coosal’s people and they block off the road…when we came back the next morning, absolutely nothing was done,” Ramharrack said.
The conditions, the residents said, had been depleting ever since and were worsened by the recent flooding and rainfall.
Accounts vary of exactly how many motorists have damaged their vehicles so far on these holes; one thing the residents could agree on is that there certainly were numerous occurrences.
Kenny Dabideen, 71, who owns a roti shop opposite one of the stealthiest holes, which hides from the sight of oncoming traffic at the turn-off into the bypass road and is only visible at the last second, claims to have seen as much as five vehicles seriously damaged from dropping into that very hole but fears the issue to be more serious than simply damaged vehicles.
“The road is so bad, there is hole all over the place. Even if you could see here (pointing to the hole), when cars go down here you could lose your front end. It almost cause fatal accident,” he said.
Dabideen’s concern was almost made a reality by a near miss with a truck attempting to avoid the dangerous terrain while Guardian Media was taking photos.
Subsequent to the visit, Group Chairman, Siunarine Coosals reached out to Guardian Media to assure the public he was aware of the situation.
Head engineer at the company, Glenn Mahabirsingh explained that the company is using a process called “Foam Bitumen” to repair the roadway which was disrupted with the recent heavy rains and floods.
The process, which was also done on the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway near UWI, involves the recycling of the materials already present on the roads and is designed to be at almost one-third the cost of more traditional methods.
“It’s a new technology in terms of road rehabilitation without closing the roadway. So conventionally…the process would be to close the road, excavate it, put in layers and allow traffic to run some time in the future. But this process is called foam bitumen, which is used internationally where you use the existing materials in the road, you add lime and cement with bitumen and you allow it to cure.”
The curing process, Mahabirsingh said, was adversely disrupted by the flooding which covered parts of the road in several feet of water, washing the surface material away.
He, however, said it was only the surface aggregate that was washed away while the base layer, which is 12 inches deep, is what motorists are currently travelling on.
When asked why works coincidentally began a few hours after media visited the site, Mahabirsingh indicated the works were planned over the weekend and produced an internal email sent on Sunday night to crews instructing the for the commencment of works on Monday.