The Governments of Liberia and Japan have signed two sets of agreements for the reconstruction and expansion of the Somalia Drive road in Gardnersville that stretches from the commercial sector of Red Light in Paynesville to the economic sector of Freeport on Bushrod Island.
Liberia's Foreign Minister Augustine Ngafuan, signed on behalf of his government, while Japan's Ambassador accredited near Monrovia, Naoto Nikai, signed the Exchange Notes concerning detailed design of the project, and the Senior Representative of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA's) Ghana Office, Mr. Fuyuki Sagara.
JICA is responsible for bilateral cooperation in Liberia. The agreements were signed in Monrovia in the presence of Public Works Minister Samuel Kofi Woods and other Foreign Ministry officials. Speaking later, Foreign Minister Ngafuan said the grant for the Exchange Notes is in the tone of 89 million Japanese Yen or approximately US$1 Million.
Ngafuan explained that the grant is a precursor to the main Somalia Drive Reconstruction Project that will be extended to four lanes. He assured the Japanese Government of the Liberian Government's effective and efficient use of the grant. The road is estimated to be 13.2 kilometers from Freeport Junction on Bushrod Island to the Red Light Junction in Paynesville, outside Monrovia.
It can be recalled that in October 2012, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, at the head of a high powered delegation that included Public Works Minister Samuel Kofi Woods, paid a state visit to Japan and held fruitful discussions with the Japanese Emperor and Prime Minister, respectively out of which the grant was secured.
"The signing of the agreements in December of 2012 and now this historic Somalia Drive Highway Agreement are all positive outcomes of the stronger bond that now exists between our two countries since the visit", Foreign Minister Ngafuan said.
While showering unreserved appreciation for Public Works Minister Woods and his team "that worked assiduously behind the scene to make the agreement a success", Ngafuan then on behalf of President Sirleaf, extended thanks and appreciation to JICA and the Japanese people, saying he eagerly looks forward to signing the actual roadwork project in the near future.
For his part, Minister Woods, who also thanked the Japanese Government for the gesture, explained the technical nature of the roadwork, which once concluded, will include a bridge to replace the existing Stockton Creek Bridge, rehabilitation of the Double Bridge, and a construction of a side-walk, among others.
The Stockton Creek Bridge connects Bushrod Island to Gardnersville, while the Double Bridge connects Gardnersville to Paynesville. Both bridges are along the Somalia Drive route. Japanese Ambassador Nikai said the objectives of the project are to mitigate the traffic congestion and secure traffic safety.
"We estimate that the traffic time at peak hour between Freeport and Red Light will be reduced from almost one hour as of now to about 20 minutes after completion", Ambassador Nikai assured.
He also revealed that direct beneficiaries of the project will be the road users and residents, whose population is about 300,000, while indirectly benefitting Monrovia's 1.2 million inhabitants. The Japanese envoy said the expansion work will continue until the end of 2015.
JICA's representative Fuyuki Sagara, said the reconstruction of the Somalia Drive will be the first road construction project by Japanese Grant Assistance to Liberia in such a long history of bilateral relationship, adding that as the implementing agency on the Japanese side, JICA promises a smooth, effective and quality-assured implementation of the Project.
Meanwhile the Ministry of Public Works has announced the expansion of the Roberts International Airport to a four lean road to meet international standards. The Ministry noted that the Japanese Government has made available US$5.6 million for the improvement of the road leading from the ELWA Junction in Paynesville to the Roberts International Airport in Margibi County.
Public Works Director of Communication Josufu Kieta, urged Liberians residing along the RIA highway, who may be affected by the project to take heed. Kieta noted that those residents with proper documentations and legitimate land deeds should proceed to the Public Works Ministry for discussions.