Liberia: Weah Breaks Ground for U.S.$94.5 Million Ria Road Expansion, Pavement

President Weah steps down from the yellow machine after performing the ground breaking for the RIA Highway expansion project.

President George M. Weah has broken ground for the expansion and pavement of the Roberts International Airport (RIA)-ELWA junction highway, valued at US$94.5 million, an initiative that was greeted with jubilations by scores of Liberians and partners.

At yesterday's ceremony held at the Unification Town in Margibi County, President Weah said Liberians will now call him "bad road medicine." The expansion work on the 44-kilometer stretch of highway will be done by East International Group Incorporated, over the period of 36 months (equivalent to three years).

The project is titled: "Upgrading to Dual Carriageway -- ELWA-Roberts International Airport Highway," cuts across Paynesville City in Montserrado County to Unification Town, in Margibi County.

Yesterday's event witnessed high jubilations and excitements from high profile government officials, diplomats, International dignitaries, students, marketeers, elders, chiefs, government officials, lawmakers, among others, when President George Manneh Weah broke ground for the expansion and pavement of the airport corridor.

Students at the RIA Highway ground-breaking ceremony in Unification Town, Margibi County.

The four-lane road, which is expected to be completed and dedicated in 2023, is expected to also reduce accidents which have claimed the lives of many drivers, passengers and pedestrians, thereby improving the movement of people, goods, and services to and from six of the fifteen counties, namely: Margibi, Grand Bassa, Rivercess, Sinoe, Grand Kru, and Maryland.

President Weah described the groundbreaking ceremony as a 'historic day' for Liberians, stating that, what previous administrations have failed to do is what his government is embarking on and, as such, his famous name people call him, 'Talk and Do' has been changed to 'Bad Road Medicine', a title which he expressed satisfaction with.

"You all are familiar with many of my unofficial titles. For example, during my campaign, before you voted me to victory, you named me 'COUNTRY GIANT'. After I came to office, and began to deliver on some of my promised projects, you named me 'TALK AND DO'. For my support for women's empowerment and the protection of girls and women, I was named 'FEMINIST-IN-CHIEF'," the President said.

President Weah says he has yet another unofficial title: "Bad road medicine"

"But now there is a new one which I recently heard, and which I would like to share with you now, because I think that it is very relevant to this occasion. They now call me "'BAD ROAD MEDICINE". I am very proud of this new title, which depicts me as the antidote to bad roads, and I will do my very best during the rest of my tenure to deserve it. The Liberian leader described the current road condition as a death trap since its 70 years of existence something which he said has claimed the lives of thousands of unfortunate passengers, both Liberians and foreigners, due to past administrations failures to expand the road.

"The RIA road is a project that is long overdue because of the safety hazards presented by its narrowness and darkness. The RIA Highway has been a death-trap since it was built in the 1940's, during World War Two. In the 70 years of its existence, it has claimed the lives of thousands of unfortunate passengers, both Liberians and foreigners alike."

He said the completion of the RIA Highway project, together with the new terminal at the airport, will present the first impressions of Liberia to those traveling to Liberia through the airport. President Weah bragged that since his administration, records of his ground breaking for projects have clearly shown that either that projects have been completed or are progressing according to schedule and, as such, the airport highway project will not be abandoned under his regime.

Assistant Public Works Minister for Operations, KauStella Kialain, who provided the overview of the project, said the ground breaking of the RIA will mark a transformation of Liberia's road infrastructure. According to her, it was just in 2018, that Public Works Minister Mobutu Vlah Nyenpan, Sr. presented the three dimensional concepts of the expansion of the RIA road at the first ever cabinet retreat held under President George M. Weah.

Madam Kialain said the project has been strategically planned to meet the timeline, but the framework calls for the project to be executed into three lots which include: 1) from Roberts International Airport to Junk River Bridge; 2) from Junk River Bridge to ELWA junction and; 3) the construction of the Junk River Bridge and the upgrading of the existing bridge.

"This project has the total cost of US$94.5 million that is allocated in three major segments.

Diplomatic Corps at the Ground-breaking ceremony for the RIA Highway expansion project in Unification Town, Margibi County

The civil works with the actual construction is valued at US$80 million; design and supervision cost valued at US$7 million; and the management and resettlement action plan valued at US$7.5 million," Madam Kialain explained. "The length of the road is 45 km or 27.8 miles.

The design of the road takes into consideration many factors, including population density, social activities, and the topography, which led the highway into different sections. The new road, when completed, will have a toll location, which is Junk River Bridge."

She said the road station at Marshall Junction will include several facilities, including parking lot, green area, rest rooms, vehicle service center, gas station, food court, and convenience stores.

Madam Kialain emphasized that the RIA highway is the major and most convenient route available for travel between the international airport and the nation's capital city, Monrovia. The highway, she said, connects the corridor from the southeastern part of the country, which hosts three major seaports and provides access to major cash crops concessions, such as Firestone Natural Rubber Company and the Golden Veroleum Oil Palm Plantation in the Southeast.

"Interestingly, this highway currently serves as the most reliable road for the movement of a little over 34% of the total population of the country to the capital, Monrovia where centrally established authority, businesses, socially improved facilities are located," she said.

World Bank Country Manager, Dr. Khwima Nthara, said this groundbreaking ceremony is yet another major step in underscoring the government's commitment to the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD), which was launched by President Weah at the beginning of his term of office.

Dr. Nthara said the second pillar of the PAPD emphasizes the maintenance of macroeconomic stability, building of good infrastructure, and providing a business-friendly environment that can stimulate private productive investments and create more and better-quality jobs that are critical to sustaining the peace and to future economic growth.

"We at the World Bank Group are honored to have a part in the unfolding story. In particular, our history with this road makes this occasion special, since it was one of the first road infrastructure links to be rehabilitated with World Bank funding in the immediate post-conflict era," he said.

He said this road link is very important to the economy of Liberia, stating that "from a spatial perspective, the city of Monrovia is gradually expanding in this direction and recent improvements to the aviation infrastructure will stimulate a greater utility of this highway.

Therefore, Dr. Nthara said, it is heartening to see that appropriate steps are being taken to ensure that the transport infrastructure can support the expected demand in the next few years.

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