The new US$94 Million expansion project on the RIA Highway is considered by the Daily Observer to be a great and wonderful project, for many reasons.
First, it will double to four lanes the width of this important highway, reducing the time people will take to get to the airport, making it entirely unnecessary for passengers to be late in catching their flights for foreign travel.
Secondly, it will give Liberia a glittering new highway, equipped with lights, lights, lights, according to Madam KauStella Kilain, a proud Liberian daughter who hails from Nimba County and Public Works Assistant Minister for Operations. It will include, she said, a parking lot, green areas, rest rooms, shopping centers, food courts, petroleum stations and other amenities, just as they are found in modern countries abroad.
The new highway, she further explained, will connect the corridor from the southeastern part of the country which hosts three major seaports (the Ports of Greenville, Harper and Buchanan) and provide access to major cash crop concessions, such as the natural rubber-producing Firestone Plantations Company in Margibi County and Golden Veroleum Oil Palm Plantation in the southeast.
"This highway currently serves as the most reliable road for the movement of little over 34% of the nation's total population to the capital, Monrovia, where centrally established authority, businesses and socially improved facilities are located," KauStella declared.
Madam Kilain recalled that it was Public Works Minister Mobutu Nyenpan who in 2018, during President Weah's first ever Cabinet retreat, presented the three-dimensional concepts of the expansion of the new RIA Highway.
World Bank Country Director, Dr. Khwima Nthara, said the new RIA Highway will contribute to the maintenance of Liberia's macroeconomic stability by providing "a business-friendly environment that can simulate private productive investments and create more and better quality jobs critical to sustaining peace and future economic growth."
Why have we emphasized lights at the proposed new RIA Highway? Because most Liberians who have traveled abroad, especially to Europe and the United States, have enjoyed, while landing in these places, the wonderfully lit skyline, and not that only, but the massive developments, including skyscrapers and beautifully landscaped environs.
These beautifully spectacular sceneries in Europe, America other places are part of what makes Liberians so eager and happy to travel abroad. Another thing that makes them happy is the great developments they see abroad--developments of all kinds--in infrastructure--roads, bridges, beautifully landscaped, wide and expansive highways, very tall buildings, called skyscrapers and, of course, ultra-modern educational, health and industrial facilities.
But what happens when Liberians return and start landing at RIA? Their hearts sink as the airplanes they are traveling in begin to descend at RIA. The first thing that hits us Liberians as we land at RIA, especially at night, is the pitch darkness we see everywhere around us as the plane descends. Then we know that we are back, to a place where we dismally (gloomily, miserably, cheerlessly) call "home".
If President Weah, Minister Nyepan and Assistant Minister KauStella can, by 2023, pull off this new, glittering RIA Highway as promised, then we Liberians and foreigners alike, landing at RIA, will soon begin to experience a far different, better, newer and far more hopeful feeling as we land at RIA. For there will, or should be, LIGHTS, LIGHTS, LIGHTS everywhere, in the entire RIA environs! That alone should lure (entice, pull, persuade, tempt,) more and more people to visit Liberia. That could be the beginning of a new, dynamic and hopeful thrust for tourism in Liberia. But wait!
President Weah and all his lieutenants, beginning with Foreign Minister Gbehzohngar M. Findley, need to know and understand that it will take more than a new, modern airport and RIA highway to encourage (cheer, embolden, inspire) more foreigners, more tourists to visit Liberia. The President, his government, including our many Honorary Consuls of Liberia from many parts of the world, need to contact and engage as many international friends as possible to develop the vast areas surrounding the Roberts International Airport, so as to make the entire RIA surrounding beautifully attractive. This will enable people landing at RIA to experience a development and hopeful feeling. It will give ourselves and our visitors a great sense of hope that indeed something good is happening in Liberia, that Liberia is on the march to progress and development!
President Weah, you and your government have a unique opportunity to make all of this happen! You all should start thinking NOW that part of these new developments that this Editorial is proposing should be a five-star hotel, situated along the picturesque Du, Farmington and Marshall Rivers--all in the same RIA vicinity and bordering the Atlantic Ocean.
Lest we forget, President Weah and his government should start NOW thinking, planning and contacting credible international investors to rebuild the Ducor Intercontinental Hotel at Fort Norris, atop Broad Street, Snapper Hill, Monrovia. It was West Africa's first five-star hotel, built by Israeli developers in 1964, during the Tubman administration.
The Weah government should do all it can to revive this once great, historic and glittering institution, majestically overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
If you do that, Mr. President, it will be a bright and memorable feather in your legacy.