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Government looking at short-term fixes for ‘atrocious’ roads

Harrington Sound Road, Belco trench work (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Improvements could be made to dug-up roads across the island before permanent resurfacing takes place, the Minister of Public Works said yesterday.

Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch explained that his team was looking at how to help motorists while utility company Belco continues its three-year trenching programme to replace underground cables.

His comments came during a Budget debate in the House of Assembly.

Craig Cannonier, the shadow works and engineering minister, said: “There’s a lot of talk about our roads and the conditions of the roads.

“I remember one person mentioning to me that when they travel on the South Road past the supermarket there in Devonshire all the way down to Swizzle, that it’s just a bumpy road the whole way through.”

The One Bermuda Alliance MP added that it was good to see increases in current account estimates for roads maintenance – up $599,000 on the original 2021-22 estimate to $1.7 million for the year ahead; as well as asphalt and signs, which is set to go from an original estimate of $623,000 in 2021-22 to $1.2 million in 2022-23.

But he added: “I know that there are challenges as we move forward, especially with a lot of work with Belco and the likes.”

Mr Cannonier also asked for information about plans to resurface roads.

Colonel Burch told MPs that he announced a joint project with Belco two years ago to trench "virtually the entire island".

He said: “In relation to the quality of asphalt on the roads, the trenches require a year to settle before you can go back and repave the road completely.

“I have driven on some of those roads and they are atrocious and so we are looking at what we can do in the interim to ameliorate part of that problem.”

Colonel Burch added that the work allowed the electricity company to replace underground cables that were “past their shelf life”.

He explained that it meant other organisations such as Bermuda Waterworks and the Government’s public works team could put equipment in the trenches at the same time.

The minister said that this was the second year of three in Belco’s programme.

Colonel Burch highlighted “upsides” to the work while it continues.

The minister said: “Every trenching company in the country is employed.

“Every one of those companies has hired additional staff, so there’s employment in the country, generating some economic activity.

“We will have a look at how we can ameliorate the quality of the roads for the next year but I think that in the long run we will all benefit.”

The minister said that an estimated $500,000 in capital expenditure was allocated for road works under the Department of Works and Engineering in 2022-23.

Colonel Burch said: “This budget comprises major maintenance work to the road network, which includes road resurfacing as well as road improvement schemes such as junction improvements, road widening and new sidewalks.

“This year’s budget consists primarily of work associated with the Belco trenching scheme only.

“As such, only emergency response and repairs are slated for this budget outside of the trenching works.

“While it is not ideal, it is unfortunately one of the areas scaled back in order for more critical work to take place within the reduced budget.”

Colonel Burch said that employee number estimates for the department for 2022-23 was 344 but only 272 of the “required posts” were filled.

He added: “This will place an even greater challenge to meet service delivery.”

Colonel Burch said that the department will “look to retain staff that are being poached by the private sector” and work to fill what posts it can.

Members heard that the overall allocation for the Ministry of Public Works was estimated at $69.2 million, including $27.7 million for the works and engineering department and $20.4 million for public lands and buildings.

The minister said that MPs will continue to use Veritas Place for the House of Assembly while work on the interior of Sessions House remained on hold in 2022-23 “to ease demand on capital budget”.

* To review the Budget Book, click on the PDF under “Related Media”.

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Published March 10, 2022 at 2:23 pm (Updated March 10, 2022 at 2:23 pm)

Government looking at short-term fixes for ‘atrocious’ roads

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