Potholes on public roadways remain irrefutable signs of life in Trinidad and Tobago today.
There are apparently no clear solutions to these perennial problems. As road users, a weary population has essentially given up hope of solutions being proposed, much less implemented. On major roadways, equally as on minor roads, in built-up areas to the same extent as in villages and communities in rural districts, dilapidation is a fact of life. Often, generations of nationals go through this lived reality of bad roads and their deleterious effects on life in these areas.
Traversing many districts is treacherous enough during the daytime, and this becomes that much more dangerous after dark. The twin hazards of potholed, neglected, unpaved roadways and landslides combine to make many journeys a living hell.
Moreover, it is common in many parts of the country for access to these areas to be cut off after heavy showers. A recent survey conducted by our editorial team along 14 kilometres of roadway between Ben Lomond and the Piparo Main Road identified no less than 316 potholes. The toll this reality takes on vehicles, with the resultant need for constant repairs, adds significantly to vehicle maintenance costs.
There are parts of the country through which some vehicle owners simply refuse to pass, and this invariably also sends up the cost of transport for those who must travel to and from.
Bad roads are a constant source of community protests and demands for remedial action, as was the case just days ago in Chatham on Trinidad’s south-western tip. Residents there have had enough of the lack of attention to the effects of a landslip which took place more than two years ago. This situation led to the fact that large vehicles such as buses, maxi taxis and fuel tankers simply could not service these areas. The result for hapless residents, there and elsewhere, is unavailability of essential goods and services, higher costs to get them by other means, and tremendous inconvenience.
All these make for the increased inconvenience that citizens complain about in too many parts of the country.
How could situations such as what exists in the Chatham district go unattended for two years is beyond comprehension, with one irate resident calling on the authorities to “do something now”.
When such inexcusable failures of public works management reach national attention, authority figures feel constrained to offer apologies and promise improvement. But this is hardly good enough.
Such situations call for new thinking in this area of tending to our infrastructure needs. They require the coming together of the relevant public officials, including the people’s representatives at all levels, and frustrated residents in affected areas.
Purposeful decisions must be taken to devise and implement such measures as would lead to the programmatic repair and maintenance of the vulnerable roads, bridges and land spaces where they exist. The benefits for improved living standards by residents, the general easing of the pressure on ordinary people and the reduction of denunciations of public officials, organisations and agencies are inestimable.