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Gordon Town road damage worse than estimated, says MP

CONTRACTORS repairing the collapsed section of the Gordon Town main road in St Andrew have determined, after removing the rubble from the site, that the infrastructural damage is more extensive than was previously thought.

The revelation was made by St Andrew East Rural Member of Parliament (MP) Juliet Holness when she toured the area last Friday, one month since repair work began.

“The level of the breakaway and the extent of the work that needs to be done is deeper than was estimated,” Holness said. “With the procurement guidelines, you can’t splinter the contract, so you have to wait until you literally remove the rubble and then determine what size wall is required and by that time, you would have already issued the contract. Now they’ve realised that they have to go deeper,” said the MP.

Holness said the team is now engaged in looking at cost-saving measures to ensure that the project does not exceed the original $195 million budget.

“It’s a massive endeavour that is required, but I think what they are looking at now, instead of extending the wall as long as they had planned, is to find a comfortable spot that they’re able to turn back into the [hillside]. Originally, they had planned to go a lot further down the river, so now they’re looking at going deeper, but not as wide.”

She, however, does not foresee any major delays in the six-month timeline for the restoration of the roadway.

“One of the things that really determines how long the wall takes is whether you go with packed stones or reinforced concrete,” she explained. “The packed stones cost less, and it gives you more in terms of employment, so the constituents can be more involved in the process, but pouring concrete moves faster. Most of the design for the project is reinforced concrete.”

As the parliamentarian toured the area, a steady throng of residents from nearby communities walked and rode carefully across the single-file footpath that remains where the road once was. While pedestrians and motorcyclists can still manoeuvre the affected section of the roadway, which appeared to be even thinner than it was when the Jamaica Observer visited the area late last year, motorists have had to use the hazardous detour through Savage Pen.

“Savage Pen is complete. We have white line to the centre of the road, and we have had wardens there for two weeks now,” the MP updated. “The wardens help because there are sections of the road that are very narrow.”

She cautioned motorists who opt to use that route instead of the longer way around Irish Town or Newcastle Road, which passes through Silver Hill Gap, Content and Guava Ridge, to ensure that their vehicles are in tip-top shape.

“It still requires that you have road-worthy vehicles because the road is narrow and steep, especially in two particular areas,” she warned.

Heavy rains associated with hurricanes Eta and Zeta caused the massive breakaway in November last year.

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