Preparatory work kicked off over the weekend for the reconstruction and expansion of the Somalia Drive into a four-lane street, pulling smiles and commendation from some citizens.
Yellow machines, controlled by men reportedly from the Ministry of Public Works, broke down previously marked make-shift structures including gas stations, and uprooted trees to clear that way for work.
The clearing began just two days after this paper's publication that showcased disappointing views of citizens who had expressed concern over delays in commencing the project which was expected to have kick off in September.
Scores of citizens gathered to witness a yellow machines and workers clearing the side of the road the expansion would affect, with those still operating makeshift garages warned to vacate immediately.
"Yes, it look like the people now ready for business," one citizen witnessing the falling of huge mango trees at JJY, Gardnersville, noted. "Let them come fix this our road; let them make it four lanes so that traffic will finish," the middle-age man added.
However, Massa Moore, another spectator, said she this kind of clearing has happened before and nothing was done, but hopes this time the work will be done. "This is, I, think the third times they clearing the side of the road and they cant start building this wonderful four-lane street. This time we want to see it."
It is not clear how much will be paid each of those whose properties are being damaged along the road, but the Government has been paying packages to those often affected--especially those who have legitimate claims.
Public Works officials could not give details of the clearing, but a source confirmed that the clearing of the Somalia Drive was the beginning of a dream come true.
"Preparatory work has since began on the project behind the scenes; we have been working and you will see more happening shortly," the trusted source said on anonymity.
Citizens, especially commuters along the Somalia Drive, last week told this writer that they were eager to see the commencement of the much publicized 4-lane street which construction was announced to have kicked off in September.
They said it was now three months since the dry season started--the perfect period for road construction in Liberia--and there were no signs that the rehabilitation and expansion of the Somalia Drive into a four-lane highway is anywhere around.
The Governments of Liberia and Japan on June 10, 2013 signed a US$50 million agreement for the reconstruction and expansion of the Somalia Drive, following more than two years of negotiations.
The Somalia Drive is an important economic road link that stretches from the commercial sector of Red Light in Paynesville outside Monrovia to the economic sector of Freeport on the Bushrod Island, and turning it into a modern highway will be one of the biggest developments in postwar Liberia that Liberians are eager to see.
The June 10's signing ceremony followed a Detailed Design Agreement that was signed earlier in March between both governments.
Foreign Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan signed on behalf of the Liberian Government while Naoto Nikai, Ambassador of Japan accredited to Liberia signed for his government.
"The Somalia Drive project is considered a landmark because it is a major artery of Liberia's trade corridor. That is, from the Freeport of Monrovia to the ever busy Red Light Market. It is expected that the completion of this project will alleviate traffic congestion and improve road worthiness in Monrovia and its environs, which translate to the reduction of transaction cost for the production and movement of goods and services, and ultimately contribute to the overall economic development of Liberia," Ngafuan noted.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf recently toured several ongoing and expected infrastructure projects, including the Somalia Drive and hinted that these projects would start soon.