Historian Trevor Marshall has suggested that the ill-fated White Hill, St Andrew road should be abandoned, while warning that soil conditions in St Andrew make the parish unsuitable for road construction.
His comments come against the backdrop of the deteriorating road conditions in White Hill, where the main road has collapsed due to continuous land slippage, leaving residents in despair.
Delivering a lecture here on Monday night themed, From Cart Roads to Asphalt, the Evolution of the Land Transportation Sector in Barbados, Marshall traced the history of road construction on the island, explaining that “cart roads were initially trails between plantations and the current road network” and that they “emerged out of what were trails connecting estates, or connecting the estates to Bridgetown, to Speightstown, to Holetown, and to Austins, which became Oistins”.
“Assuming that we had 500 plantations by 1750, every plantation seems to have had about on average 300 acres. Of those 300 acres, you had about 40 cart roads. We seem to have had anything like 20,000 cart roads in Barbados by the time emancipation came in 1838,” the historian said.
He went on to explain that the cart road was the basis of our road system in Barbados, but once the technology of mixing tar with ground coral stone was introduced into the island, it became “a panacea” for road building here.
However, the recently retired Barbados Community College lecturer argued that based on its geology, there were some parts of the island, which were not made for roads.
“We have badlands in St Andrew where the coral stone is denuded [and] we have nothing under there to make a road.
“In order to make a road you have to have a hard base under there, you put a filling there, and then you put either your tar or your asphalt,” he told the audience at the Grand Salle of the Central Bank, which included Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley.
During the Ministry of Transport-sponsored event, Marshall hit out at the island’s road building authorities for blindly copying construction techniques of other islands.
“Everywhere in Barbados there is evidence that we tried to do things which would be good in Jamaica, in Trinidad with their long stretches of flat land, but we have not only coral, we have sand stone, we have shale, we have clay,” he said.
His comments come against the backdrop of appeals by residents of White Hill, St Andrew – backed up by their political representative George Payne of the Opposition Barbados Labour Party – for the authorities to come to their rescue following the collapse of the main road more than a year ago.
In recent days, their temporary road has also collapsed under the pressure of heavy rains, but to date their appeals appear to have fallen on deaf ears with no apparent solution in sight to their current plight.