The Ministry of Transport and Works (MTW) is defending its street lighting programme, saying the reasons for patches of dark areas on the island’s motorways were often out of its hands.
Deputy Chief Technical Officer for Design Services Cheryl Bennett-Inniss said the Ministry’s plans to install or replace street lights were sometimes delayed, due to the unavailability of the required resources.
“The Ministry is always completing its work with respect to road safety, and things like repairs of lights along the roadway are always in train. But we don’t manufacture the light poles or anything like that here, so obviously we have to wait until we get the money, then we order, we wait for them to come in, and then we install,” Bennett-Inniss told Barbados TODAY on the sidelines of the launch of the MTW’s road safety public awareness campaign.
The ministry had come in for much criticism after four young people – three teenagers from St Vincent and the Grenadines and a 23-year-old Barbadian – lost their lives in an early morning accident on the Graeme Hall stretch of the ABC Highway in January.
That section of the roadway had been unlit for a considerable length of time, and motorists and road safety advocates had complained for more than a year about the poor visibility, which some believe contributed to the fatal accident.
The MTW later replaced the faulty street lights, which was viewed as a knee jerk reaction to the tragedy.
However, Bennett-Inniss insisted that plans to repair the lights had been in the pipelines long before the accident.
“That order was already completed and we were just waiting for [the lights] to arrive to install them. Unfortunately, that fatality happened before we could install them. So it wasn’t in response that we then went out and repaired the lights; it was always the plan,” she said.
Meantime, Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley accused the media of sensationalizing the situation, lamenting that Government’s efforts to rectify the problem were not highlighted enough.
“The lights were out and we fixed them, but the newspapers never went and put them on the front page, but as soon as it gets dark the newspapers would put them on the front page. We are doing our work and we continue to do our work. We are experiencing challenging economic times and we have to make sure that we move within our limits to ensure that these lights are up. But having street lights on the highway will not be on the backburner; it will always be on the forefront of our ministry’s mandate,” he stressed.