Thursday, July 07, 2011

Lae is on the road to nowhere

Morobe Governor Luther Wenge, true to style, opened up a can of worms with a savage attack on regional works manager Brian Alois in The National on Monday this week.
The grand Songang and his right hand man, Lae-based Highlands businessman Peter Honale, condemned a Weekender article in this paper last Friday which criticised the state of roads in Lae.
He said the article, based on information provided by Alois, was a setback to efforts by the national and provincial contractors to get rid of potholes on Lae roads for many years.
Wenge, however, miserably failed to see that Alois has the support of so many people in Lae and Papua New Guinea, judging by the number of phone calls and emails I received.
Just last December, acting Prime Minister Sam Abal dished out more than K100 million to a handful of contractors to fix up Lae roads, however, cracks are already appearing in the concrete and water is spilling out from drains

Truck along Markham Road, opposite Lae Showground. Concrete here is already cracking.-Pictures by MALUM NALU
Contractors are working willy-nilly on their assigned stretches, in an unplanned, haphazard fashion, and there seems to be no uniformity all over the city.

Cracks already appearing in the concrete along Markham Road opposite Lae Showground.
 Compare that to a decade ago when AusAid-funded Barclay worked on the Lae roads?
The Department of Finance, seemingly, has appointed overseas contractor NME International as its engineering supervising consultant for Lae roads with no input whatsoever from Department of Works.
Alois and the works guys, even the city engineer, have no say whatsoever in the Lae roads project.

Project signboard along the hill leading up to town.Works Department and Lae City Council, however, have no say in the project.
“I am not against concrete roads and I believe they are great,” he explains.
“But I do not believe it is the solution for our roads here in Lae.
“We have not exhausted the other methods and importantly, we do not have specifications for concrete roads here in PNG, let alone specification for maintenance of concrete roads.
“The K100m allocation is a lot of money and given the fact that Lae has just over 140km of road length, this money if applied through approved processes using conventional and improved designs, can transform close of 50% of these roads.
“That concrete section done earlier in front of Admin Compound is going, and falling apart, after five years!
“Take a drive down there and take a closer look, there are cracks everywhere and that is not a good sign.

Huon Road between Town and Eriku, the first concrete road in Lae, commissioned by Morobe Governor Luther Wenge. Concrete is already cracking.
“Furthermore, surface run‐offs from the newly-constructed section done by Dekenai will flow down and water will seep into those cracks in the concrete and sooner or later, there will be differential settlement between the individual concrete sections and that would be catastrophic; it is already happening – try driving at over 60kph and you will feel the undulations.
“The surface texture is also fading and like I said before, maintenance is near difficult.”
Alois has observed a number of faults in the current Lae road works.
“Firstly, all the designs are different and each contractor has its own,” he said.
“The consultant was supposed to do the design and pass it onto the contractor, instead the contractors did the design and requests approval from the consultant.
“This is a terrible joke!
“Secondly, I do not believe any traffic survey/count was done on the sections of the roads before the contractors started their works.
“How do the contractors know the volume and type of traffic that uses the road?
“Assumptions again, that is bad, very bad.
“Roads are designed to carry axial loadings and that can only be calculated from traffic counts.
“Thirdly, we are removing the pavement material by digging down onto the sub-grade and after that we are replacing with concrete.
“If we are going to build concrete, it would be wise to build on solid foundations and not on weaker material.
“Take a drive around and you will see what I mean and worse still, the beddings were not sufficiently compacted – we are building on loose materials too!

Driving down the steep Huon Road Hill, a lesson in how not to build roads.
“Apart from planning and classification of roads to match traffic, traffic management during construction is also an essential element especially when we are working in town where there is significant volume of traffic.
“Without this, there will always be chaos and I do not need to comment any more on this.”
Alois said at the completion of the first Lae roads project back in 2001, AusAID funded a comprehensive study that recommended two important elements for Lae City Council and the Morobe provincial administration to implement before any future funding could be considered: Construct various drainage outfalls from the previous works; and provide continuous funding for routine maintenance.
“Two drainage outfalls were constructed and these were (i) Bumbu A (near the main wharf, old Ai Gris Market) and (ii) Marsina (adjacent to the cement factory),” he said.
“The Didiman Creek (running down the old airfield) was also lined.
“Now the only reason why extensive work was done to improve the Didiman Creek was to cater for future drainage to feed into it.
“A purposely-constructed spillway was built for overflows from the Raun Wara. There are seven other drainage outfalls that need construction and unless this is done, run‐offs from our roads will have no facility to assist in the discharge.
“So basically, all these water and those from the buildings/houses just simply flow around until they eventually seep into the ground, hence the reason why the soil under us is water‐logged.”
Then there’s the issue of provision of continuous funding for routine maintenance.
“We have seen the result of negligence and it is not going to help us if we do not cater for routine maintenance year‐in year‐out,” Alois said.
“The roads previously reconstructed are beginning to fall apart right before our eyes and we have not even made any attempt to repair them.
“Those small cracks have widened and potholes have emerged simply because we have not attended to them while they are still small.
“Culverts are blocked and during heavy rain, they overflow onto the road and that contributes to rapid pavement deterioration.”

No comments:

Post a Comment