Monrovia — As the deadline for the completion of the Roberts International Airport (RIA) to ELWA Junction Road project draws nearer, Liberia's Public Works Minister Madam Ruth Coker Collins has disclosed that significant progress has been made and the pavement of the road will commence before the start of this year rainy season.
Minister Collins said though there were challenges and public outcry relative to the manner and form in which the project commenced, modalities have been worked out to guarantee the completion of the project.
She disclosed that manpower has been increased, while international experts have been brought into the country to also build the capacity of the locals.
She maintained that a rigorous monitoring process has also been implored to ensure worth for taxpayers and donor funds.
She made these comments when she appeared as guest on OK FM 99.5 in Monrovia on Wednesday, March 1.
According to her, authorities of the ministry and the company are holding weekly interactions to outline challenges and progress that have been made on the project so far.
"For the RIA highway we are expecting to do pavement before the rainy season. As a matter of fact, we have started placing sub-base courses on both sides and we are expecting to start from the ELWA up to five kilometers. That's why you see, we are putting in a lot of time."
Let's do it together
Minister Collins disclosed that the asphalt pavement of the stretch from the airport will also commence within a two-week period.
"We are progressing and I just want to talk to my Liberian people that we need to do this together."
She observed that there exist limited detours and roads along the RIA corridor and as such, Liberians and others plying the corridor should "drive with care."
She said more works are being done on the road during the night hours as part of efforts to ensure that the project is completed in a timely manner.
Speaking further, Minister Collins pointed out that the dumping of garbage in areas that have already been leveled and cleared by the contractors remains a major challenge to the timely completion of the project.
She observed that some unknown persons are in the constant habit of dumping garbage along the route, giving additional work to the contractors.
"We want to encourage Liberians to please stop putting garbage on places the people have cleared. This is a serious challenge for us."
She noted that the government remains committed to complete the project in a timely manner.
Minister Collins disclosed that the RIA road project has been set for a five-year period, including two years for what she called "defense and maintenance."
"The three years (for the project) started in September 2021 and by 2024 should be the end of the construction. It is a pre-financed project."
When completed, she disclosed that the project will be a four-lane-road with street and traffic lights along the route and at intersections, and standardized culvert and drainage systems, among others.
Maintaining Bushrod Island Road
Speaking further, Minister Collins stated that as part of maintenance efforts, the ministry is concretizing the corridor between the Freeport of Monrovia to St. Paul Bridge on Bushrod Island, outside Monrovia.
According to her, studies are being conducted to commence the pavement of the corridor by 2024.
"They are supposed to start by 2024, but we can't wait for them. We are doing a complete overlay with some teem asphalt to cover up. Most of the areas, we are concretizing because we know that the region is a wet region."
Ganta-Tappita Road Project
According to her, the government has already commenced the first portion of the 100kilometers Ganta-Tappita Road project.
She pointed out that about 20 kilometers of the road has already been paved, reaching to Saclepea.
Minister Collins reported that the project has been completed up to 52%.
She said though there have been challenges; the second portion is being worked on presently by the contractor.
She observed that the timely completion of the project has been a challenge and as such, the contractor has been challenged to identify the criticalities.
"We are pushing though we have some challenges. The second one is the 6.2km. The contractor has cleared between 13 to 14kilometers. This gone week end, we told the contractor to go ahead and go in line with their workings because the road has been a challenge for us. We want to identify those critical areas for us. We want them to do some maintenance works so that when the rainy season comes, we don't want cars to get stuck because of bad roads. Beside the rehabilitation works, we are concentrating on maintenance on the entire corridor."
"The next one (road project) is from Tappita to Toe's Town which is about 40kilometers and we have made completion of the procurement process to vet the contractors to get started. We are talking about 140kilometers already being covered. The next one to reach to Zwedru is about 185km and we are in the process of procuring as the bank is trying to identify where sources of funding will come from. And so, it's part of our engagement with the World Bank. We are very hopeful to get it started very soon."
Minister Collins added that the project site of the Ganta-Yekepa project has been visited by authorities of the ministry and the contractor has vowed to ensure that the project is completed this April.
"Their works are ongoing and they are just about six kilometers away from Saniquillie. They are doing the drainages, culverts and the bridges."
She disclosed that the government has engaged authorities of Arcelor Mittal to ensure that the gap space of about 30kilometeres to Yekepa is also extended from Saniquillie to the area.
She added that from Ganta to Saniqullie, about 31km of the road has already been paved by the contractor, out of the 37km.
Minister Collins pointed out that progress of 75% has also been made on the corridor from Gbarnga to Salayea.
She said in total, about 49km of the road has already been done.
"We are hoping that the contractor will get finished with the work. Up to date, they have done up to 49km of the road and they have already started preparing for the asphalt a few days from now."
She observed that citizens of the county are excited about the construction of roads in the area for the first time in the history of the country.
Minister Collins further disclosed that funding for the Voinjama to Mendicorma 80km road project feasibility studies has already been approved by the African Development Bank (AfDB).
According to her, the Design Consultant of the project will be recruited in the coming days to ensure the commencement of the project.
She stated that the 85km Kaweaken to Fish Town road project is on course.
According to her, the Grand Bassa County Community College Bridge is currently under construction.
She, however, expressed the hope that these projects will be completed before the start of the rainy season in Liberia.
"We are having feasibility studies extending this month to do the pavement from Barclayville to Greenville and that is financed by the ECOWAS Bank. We have already spoken with the bank and the bank has agreed for us to sign this."
Plan to connect capital cities
Minister Collins maintained that as an aged-old country, the Weah led-government is exerting efforts to connect capital cities in the nation, but the high level of rainfall in south-eastern Liberia continues to pose a challenge to the effective and efficient actualization of these projects.
"There is lots of progress being made and we are very hopeful that in the soonest possible time we will have a partner that will take full charge of doing the south-eastern roads. But, we have advanced the conversation with lots of partners who have shown a lot of interest."
Incorporating the locals
Meanwhile, the Public Works Minister has observed that many local construction companies operating in Liberia cannot compete with their foreign counterparts for projects being sponsored by the World Bank in Liberia.
She said about 10 Liberian contractors have consistently admitted that they do not have the capacity to participate in bidding processes for projects being funded by Liberia's international partners.
Despite this challenge due to the lack of financial capacity, she disclosed that the government, through the ministry has been incorporating local constructors for projects being funded by the National Road Fund.
She said the ministry will continue to find means and avenues to ensure that Liberian constructors are also given preference even though they may not have the capacity to compete with the "bigger companies.
She added that measures have been taken to ensure that "bigger companies" sub-contract other construction works to local companies operating in Liberia.