Several major roads across the island will receive a facelift.

This disclosure came last Friday from Minister of Finance, Christopher Sinckler, shortly before he signed a loan agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for US $25 million for a Road Rehabilitation and Improving Connectivity of Road Infrastructure Programme.

It will be implemented over a five-year period from the effective date of the loan agreement and executed by the Ministry of Transport and Works (MTW).

During the brief signing ceremony, Mr. Sinckler said: ???These resources being placed at the disposal of the Government for this particular project are absolutely critical in the sense that they begin to allow us to do some strategic interventions in a timely fashion.

???If one were to listen to the public discourse???, indeed if one???traversed the length and breadth of Barbados, one would know that in the last few years or so we have seen some appreciable deterioration in the quality of our roads. Barbadians have been voicing their concerns about this and the Government is not shy to intervene or oblivious of those concerns.???

The Minister disclosed that under Component One of the programme, which deals with civil works, approximately 31 kilometres of the road network would be improved. The work will include drainage, construction of sidewalks, rehabilitation of associated bridges and culverts, as well as the implementation of various safety features.

He continued: ???The 31 kilometres of roads in this component will be divided into two segments ??? sample and global roads.

The sample roads are segments of the two major highways ??? the ABC Highway in the south and the Charles Duncan O???Neal Highway in the north ??? and these will be executed for US $9.2 million, while the remaining US $12.3 million under this component will be used to rehabilitate global roads.???

Mr. Sinckler listed some of the roads to be rehabilitated as Greenland to Farley Hill; Norman Niles Roundabout to Clyde Walcott Roundabout; Cane Wood to Lower Estate Roundabout; Carmichael Road; Cattle Wash to Barclays Park; Barclays Park to Belleplaine; and Lucas Street to the Country Road Junction.

He added that US $2 million would be spent on institutional strengthening under Component Two of the project. He identified transport planning and asset management systems, including computerised tools to support the allocation of resources to priority investments; gender parity in employment within the MTW, that is, the development of a strategy to increase women???s participation in technical fields; and road safety, as some of the key areas to be improved in this segment.

The Minister noted that US $1.5 million would be set aside to provide implementation support activities under the programme. He explained that these activities would be directly related to the execution and supervision of the civil works, as well as for required audits, programme evaluations and the performance and completion reports.

Underscoring the importance of the programme, Mr. Sinckler said its objective was to improve the quality of road infrastructure and connectivity, in order to, among other things, enhance Barbados??? tourism competitiveness and growth.

He continued: ???Specifically, it aims to rehabilitate sections of road networks and reduce logistic cost, particularly transportation costs; travel times and improve safety across the road networks??? In all of this, the hope is to improve productivity in the island.

???And secondly, to provide a framework for institutional strengthening to improve the transport sector???s planning capacity of the Government, our road investment???s sustainability and financial mechanisms for rehabilitation, and regular maintenance interventions undertaken by the MTW.???

Shortly before signing the agreement, the IDB???s Country Representative, Juan Carlos de la Hoz, said the project was very much aligned with the Bank???s new country strategy, which was focused on growth.

???We feel that by enhancing road infrastructure and its connectivity, we are definitely supporting a path to growth. There are two overarching objectives which are part of the concept, and those are obviously growth and tourism competitiveness,??? Mr. de la Hoz stated.

Those attending the signing ceremony included Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Works, Simone Rudder; Chief Technical Officer, Frank Thornhill; Manager of the Public Investment Unit, Seibert Frederick; Chief of Operations at IDB, Christel Saab; and IDB???s Operations Senior Associate, Janette Archer-Headley.

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