Highway lane rebuilt, more work to be done
By Lara Pickford-Gordon Friday, September 7 2012
The Beetham Highway was reopened yesterday morning at 7.07 am after repairs took place throughout the night to restore traffic on the westbound lane into Port-of-Spain and environs. The aim was to reconstruct the damaged culvert, which caused part of the lane to cave in, by 4 am yesterday but the extent of the work necessitated more time and the section of the highway between the Central Market and Lighthouse was reopened later.
As a result, there was extensive gridlock along the East-West Corridor during peak hours yesterday morning. Maxi taxi drivers chose not to get caught in traffic heading east and remained at City Gate until things improved. This led to commuters being left stranded for hours. Motorists heeding the call to use alternative routes ended up in traffic on the Priority Bus Route (PBR) and Eastern Main Road (EMR).
While traffic during peak hours is usual, yesterday’s experience was particularly frustrating for many who had a longer wait to get to their destination. Adding to the transport problems was industrial action by Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) drivers. Director of Highways Roger Ganesh said reconstruction “took time” because care had to be taken with the utility lines and mains (TT Electricity Commission lines, National Gas lines, Water and Sewerage Authority) located underground. Also, the high tide at 4 pm on Wednesday slowed down work as well as the normal underground flow of water into the culvert from north of the PTSC compound. Ganesh said a pump had to be used to remove water.
The highway was expected to be closed again from 9 pm last night to 1 am today to allow for the surface to be paved by Junior Sammy Contractors Ltd. The company also did the reconstruction of the culvert under supervision by the Highways Division.
At about 11 am yesterday, metal sheets which were over the repaired spot were removed.
There was a slowing of traffic as the road had not been repaved and traffic was reduced to two lanes because of the presence of an excavator and truck on the right lane near Sea Lots.
Asked how the investigation would proceed since the area has been reconstructed, Ganesh said the affected area had to be excavated and photos were taken of the scene. His own observations would also be used. He said the culvert which was “completely destroyed” was about 75 years old and the “old techniques” for construction could be seen. He said the investigation would seek to determine what caused the collapse and why. “We don’t want to cast blame on anyone,” he said.
There are other underground culverts on the Beetham Highway “of similar age” as the one that was destroyed and he said they would be reconstructed over the next two years.
He said this was part of a phased programme of work along the East-West Corridor.
Responding to a question, Ganesh said all structures had a functional life-span (the purpose for which the structure was designed) and structural life-span. He explained that in the case of functional lifespan an office could be designed for a number of persons and over time the space could become insufficient.
Explaining functional lifespan, he said in the case of bridges, TT used the US code in which bridges had a functional lifespan of 75 years to 100 years.
Ganesh said, “these culverts outlived their functional lifespan and their capacity can no longer accommodate the flow of water.” Flooding occurs when the capacity of the culverts is too small to accommodate the run off. A comprehensive study of the drainage in Port-of-Spain and environs is being done.
There were long lines of people on both sides of the PBR yesterday and according to one commuter who left her Mt Lambert home at 8.45 am in a private car which used the PBR, “it was bumper to bumper going east on EMR and also on PBR.”
One driver averaged traffic was moving 12 feet every three minutes.
“That was not creeping or crawling that was limping along until we reached San Juan.” said the commuter. The driver of the car she was in decided to try the Beetham Highway after 9 am and found that the traffic was flowing.
Many motorists were unaware that the highway was cleared and there continued to be traffic in some areas. At the Barataria flyover, there was a long line of cars trying to get to Port-of-Spain via the Lady Young Road.
WASA issued a release reiterating that its work to repair an eight-inch main was not the cause of the road collapse. It maintained the “improbability of any such connection between the work performed and the structural failure and continues to provide assistance to the responsible Ministry to remedy the situation.”