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Burch: half of roads in ‘poor condition’ but repair bill is $100m

Can you dig it: half of the island’s 553 kilometres of road are in poor condition, according to Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works (File photograph)

It would cost the taxpayer $100 million to resurface all the island’s roads that are in poor condition, according to the Minister of Public Works.

Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch made the revelation in the House of Assembly yesterday and added that his ministry had a budget of only $2.9 million for road repairs this year — an amount that would “put but a small dent” in the amount of paving needed.

The minister provided an update on the extensive roadworks being carried out as part of upgrades to water treatment and electricity infrastructures.

He said that that about half of the island’s 553 kilometres of road was “in poor condition”.

Colonel Burch added that the estimated cost of paving a single kilometre of roadway on both lanes was $600,000 — although the majority of private roads were single lane and therefore cheaper to resurface.

He said: “If the Government were to undertake an immediate initiative to fully repave those public and private roads that are in poor condition — approximately 226 kilometres or half of our roadways — it would cost approximately $100 million over a ten-year period.

“Let me repeat — that’s $10 million per year for ten consecutive years — regardless of what the Government’s economic position or the island’s macroeconomic status might be.

“This would be a quarter of the entire ministry’s capital budget allocation for this year spent on just road paving alone.

“To make the ministry’s position crystal clear, there now is an allocated budget of $2,927,000 devoted to new paving works for this fiscal year. This is nowhere close to the substantive investment needed to repave all of our roads.”

Colonel Burch said that the total cost to resurface all 553 kilometres of the islands roads would be more than $190 million, with public roads costing $120 million and private roads costing an additional $76 million.

He said: “These are significant amounts of money. The $2,927,000 allocated this year will put but a small dent in the amount of paving we will do. There has to be a balance between competing infrastructure projects and other government priorities.”

Colonel Burch said that the “exorbitant” price of asphalting material had driven up the cost of resurfacing work.

“It costs the ministry $0.62 cents on every dollar used for road paving for this material,” he said.

Craig Cannonier, of the opposition One Bermuda Alliance, asked what the Government was doing to increase funding for resurfacing work and reduce costs.

The minister replied: “We have not finished looking at the funding that we have from a capital point of view this year. We might be able to divert more funds towards roadworks and that work is ongoing.

“Difficult decisions must be made by a government. Due to this economic climate we find ourselves in today — we will continue to look at ways that we can increase funding to road paving to improve the driving experience.”

Colonel Burch said that the Government had signed an agreement with private firm East End Asphalt to assist with the supply of materials and equipment.

He also confirmed that the Government’s asphalt plant was currently not operational, and that although it remained a “viable entity that can be repaired and kept in service”, those repairs had been delayed.

He said: “We had a choice this year to either put the plant down and fix it or continue paving. So we’re continuing paving but we are getting the parts to be able to fix it after this summer.”

Burch gives update in trenching

During his statement, Colonel Burch gave a progress report on a slew of roadwork projects across the island.

• Belco trench work on the Middle Road in Southampton from Lighthouse Road to Evans Bay through the roadway and railway trail began in April. April 2023. The works are by Five Star Island and it is anticipated that it will be another two months before reaching the railway trail.

• Belco pull hole work for Middle Road near the Whitney Institute Middle School is now completed inclusive of the pull hole work for Store Hill and North Shore Road up to Barker’s Hill roundabout.

• Belco pull hole work for the Eastern Northshore route — from Palmetto Road railway trail to Old Military Road and Frog Lane to the National Sports Centre Substation — is set to start in September subject to the delivery of specialised equipment.

• Belco pull hole work from Ettrick’s Veterinary on Middle Road, Warwick to Lighthouse Hill, Middle Road to Jews Bay has not started as previously planned. This work will commence once National Sports Centre pull hole work has been completed.

• The permanent paving for trenching works at Coney Island, Fractious Street and Wilkinson Avenue have all been completed.

• The permanent paving for Harrington Sound Road is progressing steadily with works around Shark Hole Hill heading towards Tom Moore’s Tavern driveway.

• Repair work for uneven surfaces have been addressed at Mullet Bay Road near Stokes Point Road, St David’s Entrance, Middle Road at Warwick Academy, and Middle Road at St Anthony’s Church.

• Flooding issues at Perimeter Lane near Marsh Folly in Pembroke. This issue should be resolved as the ministry has now cleared the boreholes allowing for drainage. In addition, an asphalt lip on Perimeter Lane at Glebe Road junction and a drainage channel has been installed at the Glebe Road bus layby to allow for excess rainwater to be redirected into the nearby canal, thereby reducing the flooding risk for the area.

Colonel Burch said: “I physically feel every crack and crevasse on our roads.

“I am intrinsically aware of the state of our highway infrastructure and the issues are not lost on myself or any of the technical officers within the Department of Works and Engineering.

“We receive reports every day from residents who are not satisfied with the length of time it is taking to fix the issues. Hearing these reports — especially those technical officers who day in and day work tirelessly to provide services to the country — serve as an incentive to work harder to address them.

“The immediate pain for the motoring public will be well worth it as when completed, these infrastructure initiatives — that is Belco’s $250 million capital plan and our own water and wastewater master plan — will see the protection of our fresh water supplies, protection of our electrical infrastructure and ensuring sewage is properly disposed of.”

Colonel Burch said that the slow progress of resurfacing work had been compounded by a lack of staff and equipment.

He said: “On island there is only a finite amount of paving equipment and a handful of personnel qualified to undertake the required works, all spread thinly across just two large organisations — one of which is the Government.”

He added that crews had been battling a surge of potholes brought on by recent heavy rains.

He said: “Since the start of our unusually wet first few months of summer and to address the pothole situation — the ministry has filled in nearly 100 different potholes in 21 different areas across the island.

“I have said previously, yes the state of our roads are uncomfortable but this sacrifice is well worth the wait. The Ministry of Public Works commits to getting our roadways fixed. However, we are not in the position to do everything all at once.

“I continuously thank the public for their patience with this initiative and as the overall infrastructure works conclude, we will follow with permanent asphalt paving. While not ideal, in the interim the ministry will continue to apply temporary asphalting and fix potholes.”

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Published July 22, 2023 at 8:01 am (Updated July 22, 2023 at 8:01 am)

Burch: half of roads in ‘poor condition’ but repair bill is $100m

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