by Marlon Madden
Government is being accused of side-lining professional engineers as it carries out a major $15.3 million rehabilitation of Highway 1.
Moreover, President of the Barbados Association of Professional Engineers (BAPR) Trevor Browne said due to a “flawed” implementation strategy of the project, which started a week ago, it was likely to exceed the estimated cost and go longer than the planned December end date.
Stating that the rehabilitation project was a major undertaking, Browne said residents and business owners would have limited access to their properties and to compound the situation, the Ministry of Transport Works and Water Resources (MTWWR) was seeking to complete the project during the months that the most rainfall would be recorded.
“Considering the extent of the work, its impact on the communities along Highway 1, and the need to maintain access to these living communities, in our considered opinion, a more realistic programme would be 24 to 28 weeks rather than 10 weeks,” said Browne, in a statement.
“BAPE strongly suggests that the MTWWR suspend the works so that the appropriate planning, designs and contracts can be put in place prior to the start of the project, preferably in 2021, and after the high rainfall months of October and November.
MTWWR must get it right the first time, the country cannot afford the ongoing high added cost of fixing it after we start wrong,” he suggested.
Browne said: “We understand that this work is being undertaken without the engagement of a consulting engineering firm to advise and assist with the preparation of detailed plans, specifications and contracts that identify and pre-plan for the many challenges/conflicts to be encountered between existing and new utilities to be installed.
“This represents a flawed implementation strategy, and it demonstrates an appalling lack of understanding of the engineer’s role in the planning and execution of such a technical project,” he added.
He said with five contractors and several utility companies working in the same space, it was paramount that very detailed drawings be prepared to “pre-empt” the many inevitable challenges which will be encountered in the construction phase.
Under the 6.5 kilometre rehabilitation of Highway 1, which should run from the Frank Walcott Roundabout to Seaview Road, St James, it is expected that officials will install 12-inch and six-inch water mains; a gas main; Flow and Barbados Light & Power ducts with approximately 150 manholes; replace six drainage culverts with larger ones, install concrete sidewalks and mill and pave an asphalt road surface.
At a press conference in late September, following a tour of the area, Minister of Transport Works and Water Resources Ian Gooding-Edghill announced that Ajax Construction, Arthur Construction, C.O Williams Construction, Jose Y Jose and Infra Inc. were the proposed contractors.
The BAPE president said he understood that contracts were “still being prepared” for the contractors, adding that they should have some specifications including the legal responsibilities of the employer/contractor, define the work scope, project schedule and the cost of each work activity, necessary to maintain effective cost control
“The MTWWR should confirm that the contracts are properly executed prior to the start of the construction phase. Based on the available information provided to the public, we can safely conclude that this project will not be completed by December 15, 2020 and that in all probability, it will exceed the $15 million budget stated in the media, an occurrence that has become all too common in public works,” said Browne.
“The question must therefore be asked – can the Government of Barbados, through MTWWR, afford to execute such a major project without utilising the appropriate engineering expertise to ensure satisfactory pre-planning and the effective cost control of the works during construction?” he said.
Browne said he was aware of two townhall meetings to present the project and invite feedback from the public. According to him, this was commendable and the project was necessary given the poor conditions of that stretch of major roadway along the “platinum coast”.
When contacted, ministry officials declined to comment on the matter, but told Barbados TODAY that a response could be forthcoming within days.