By D Kaihenneh Sengbeh
Significant progress has been made on the re-paving of the dilapidated Red Light-Gbarnga-Guinea Border highway, World Bank, EU and Public Works officials said Tuesday (March 24) during a two-day road assessment tour being led by Public Works Minister William Gyude Moore.
“I am impressed by the effort made by the contractors on the road,” World Bank Country Manager Inguna Dobraja said about progress on the 180.36 kilometers segment (costing US$166 million) from Red Light to Gbarnga.
The entire project (Red Light-Gbarnga- Guinea Border road pavement) swallows nearly US$250 million, and Public Works Minister Gyude Moore said the assessment is intended to note progress, challenges and value for millions of dollars being pumped in.
Public Works Committee Members of both houses of the National Legislature as well as the World Bank and EU envoys are on the tour, taking notes of development, pitfalls and challenges that will inform further decisions and possible additional funding
The Head of Delegation of the EU to Liberia Ambassador Tiina Intelmann said the Chinese Construction Company, CICO, was doing an “impressive” work on LOT 1 of the project. “It’s good to come and see with our own eyes how the road is being done, and I have been really impressed by the work the Chinese contractors are doing; it’s really a very, very nice work done. I have my team members here who have been working [on many projects like these] and they tell me that this is impressive.”
The World Bank and the EU are among major funders of the project under the Liberia Reconstruction Trust Fund, geared towards the cost of the Liberia Urban and Rural infrastructure rehabilitation Project.
Under the output and performance based contract (payments are done based on specified satisfactory completion of segments) the construction companies will spend up to 10 years rehabilitating and maintaining the road.
The rehabilitation phase is expected to elapse in 2017.
The entire project is about 250 kilometers. LOT 1 runs from Redlight (Cocola Factory) to Gbarnga City, while LOT 2, contracted to CHICO, another Chinese firm, stretches from Gbarnga to Ganta and to the Liberian border with Guinea.
World Bank’s Dobraja praised the contractors for the seriousness attached to the project, even in the midst of the Ebola virus storm that drove some partners away from the country.
“Despite the Ebola, they are here doing the work, to do as much as possible before the raining season starts,” Dobraja continued. “I came for the first time on this road about three years ago. It was really difficult, and coming here today the change is very visible, and it’s a progress for all stakeholders.”
The World Bank’s Country Manager applauded the work of the new Public Work Minister for his resilience in engaging all stakeholders since his takeover. “I am also happy that with the arrival of Gyude Moore things has begun to move; he’s working with the contractors to ensure the project is complete, because time is not on our side, and that’s why we have to move fast.”
Moore himself expressed satisfaction over the project implementation so far. “I was here last month, and coming back today I can see there is a lot of progress on the road; the contracting entity has done a significant amount of work—moving forward and we are very pleased with what we saw today,” Moore told a gathering in the Gbanga Administration Building.
Moore said the completion of the road projects will reduce cost of traveling, boost the economy and the delivery of goods and social services. “It is already making impact, reducing the length of time spent on the road”, he said.
Mariama Kollie, a business woman confirmed the Minister’s assertion. “The work on the road has reduced traveling time, and transportation cost,” she told this writer in an interview.
Mariama said “before [work on the road] we used to spend more than five hours on the road with our goods, but now it’s about four, and I think it will really reduce when the project is finished.”
A commercial driver identified as Kelemue Johnson said the improved condition of the road will help make their vehicles last longer. “Our cars will not spoil too soon; we will spend short time on the road and we will not repair and buy sp0are tyres every day. Things will get better of all of us.”
Senator Oscar Cooper and Representatives Edward Forh and Charles K. Bardyl respectively representing and Senate and House Committees on Public Works said they were taking notes of development to inform their decisions.
Cooper demanded that Liberian ownership be seen in the projects, noting the Liberians be trained to operate and maintain the roads so that they take up the task after the partners leave the country. Contact: +231(886/777)586531, firstname.lastname@example.org