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Highway to start from Point Fortin

By Richard Charan richard.charan@trinidadexpress.com

THE State is fast-tracking plans for the construction of the Solomon Hochoy Highway Extension in an area of least resistance–Point Fortin.

On Sunday, chairman of the National Infrastructure Development Company Ltd (Nidco) Dr Carson Charles said oil wells located along the proposed path of the highway were being capped between La Brea and Point Fortin.

Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine issued a statement last evening advising that 39 Petrotrin wells were identified for abandonment, while 45 wells operated by private companies were identified "either became they lay directly in the path of the highway or its connector roads, or deemed to be located too close to the highway".

Ramnarine stated: "These wells, of which 85 per cent are inactive, will be abandoned on a phased basis over a period between now and August 2014."

The project is estimated to cost $50 million.

The estimated production loss is considered miniscule–56 barrels of oil per day.

Several of the wells are located in the area between Debe and Mon Desir, a segment of the highway that is the subject of a civil lawsuit and hunger strike by Re-Route Movement leader Dr Wayne Kublalsingh, who wants the project stopped pending a technical review.

Charles disclosed plans for the Point Fortin side of the highway during a press briefing at Camden Heliport, Couva, before members of the media were given an aerial view of the path of the highway.

Journalists were accompanied by officials of Nidco and AECOM, a US-based company providing programme management and risk management for what is the single largest project ever attempted in Trinidad and Tobago.

Nidco project manager Earl Wilson, who is in charge of the highway to Point Fortin, said there were fewer land acquisition issues along the path of the highway between Mon Desir and Point Fortin, because much of it was State-owned land.

Point Fortin Mayor Clyde Paul said he felt vindicated by the decision to begin construction on the Point Fortin end.

"From day one, when they were turning the sod, I said we should do this," said Paul.

"The majority of the land through which the highway must pass in Point Fortin is State land. Fifteen or 20 small properties must be compensated and you will have to pay very little. For those relocated, there is already land earmarked for low cost housing a mile to two away."

Paul said, "There is 20 per cent unemployment here and we have a skilled labour force that is unemployed. People are protesting and blocking roads because they want jobs."

He said when the Government backed out on the Alutrint aluminium smelter project in 2010, the politicians promised alternatives.

"I am extremely happy to hear of this plan. If they had listened to what I was saying, this impasse with Dr Kublalsingh would never have happened. They would have had time to fix things."

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