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Re-Route Movement: PM's Debe address was genuine

By Richard Charan richard.charan@trinidadexpress.com

THE highway report disclosed by Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar Monday night in Debe as proof that hunger striker Wayne Kublalsingh's concerns had been addressed was accepted yesterday by the Highway Re-Route Movement as genuine, but rejected as worthless.

The Preliminary Report on the Debe to Mon Desir section of the highway to Point Fortin is dated June, and was compiled after Persad-Bissessar and technocrats met with Kublalsingh in April, in response to mounting protests at the site of the proposed Debe Interchange.

However, the report has dismissed many of the social, environmental, hydrological, and transportation issues raised by the Highway Re Route Movement, and warned of economic disadvantages, traffic gridlock, and security and safety issue for area citizens, if the Kublalsingh plan was adopted.

Re-Route member Shereen Boodai said she attended the meeting with Persad-Bissessar and other Government ministers.

She said a report, commissioned by the National Infrastructure Development Company (NIDCO) was presented to the group a month later.

"The 13-page document was superficial and general. It gave no robust evidence of a review. It lacked basic information like the cost benefit analysis, and there was no economic analysis," she said.

As a result, the report was dismissed by the Movement, which yesterday maintained its position that Kublalsingh would continue his hunger strike until Persad-Bissessar stopped the Debe to Mon Desir section of the highway and appoint an independent committee to investigate the project's feasibility.

Kublalsingh's father, Ray, described the report produced by Persad-Bissessar as useless.

"That was a bogus report. It did not give any information," he said.

The report noted that the Movement, which comprises homeowners living along the proposed path of the highway, raised issues which included permanent flooding, the destruction of agricultural lands, the disconnectivity of communities, the planned demolition of properties, a flawed public consultation and highway route plan, and the prohibitive cost of the 9.1 kilometre section, which is projected to cost $2.1 billion.

The report also list the benefits of the proposed highway segment, including a reduction in traffic congestion, costs and time, and improved access to Debe, Siparia, Penal, Fyzabad, La Brea and Point Fortin in anticipation of economic growth.

The report also examined the impact of eliminating the Debe to Mon Desir section of the highway and adopting the recommendations of the Highway Re Route Movement, which advocated the discontinuance of the section, while existing locals roads were upgraded.

The report concluded that residents of the area would be denied the benefits of a modern highway and hinder long term expansion placed by utility companies, while the traffic would worsen over time.

The report notes that while impact on communities could not be prevented, but mitigated by the Government's decision to compensate and relocate those in the way, and build new communities for them.

The report also stated that flooding in the area identified for the highway would occur with out without the highway construction, but that a consultant would be hired by the end of July to study the issue of floods and salt water intrusion.

A preliminary analysis of (highway contractor) OAS Constructora's drainage design found that considerable flood alleviation measures were taken, including culverts ditches, detention ponds, and erosion control, the report noted.

The report also gives reasons why a dual lane highway was needed citing studies which showed that some 30,000 vehicles would be travelling the route by 2030.

The report detailed the Highway re Route's suggestion for the upgrade of secondary roads, and concluded that it would lead to more delays and the need to build new roads.

—with reporting by Carolyn Kissoon

NB - you can access the Trinidad Express website at www.trinidadexpress.com to read the entire report

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