Exuma’s crumbling sand seal and pea rock roads, long past their prime, are finally on the fast track for a much-needed upgrade. The condition of Exuma’s streets range from fair to poor, according to David Cox, the Ministry of Work’s senior engineer for the Family Islands. Much of the infrastructure has gone far beyond 15 years, the life span for the road surface mixture–if they are well maintained. In fact, the last time major works were executed on the island were in the mid to late 1990s, more than 20 years ago.
“The roads aren’t maintained in a fashion similar to first world countries where they would go in every five years and carry out some sort of remediation. We tend to leave the roads for as long as possible until potholes begin breaking out and then we repair them. When it gets so bad, we have to repave them,” said Mr Cox who noted it’s not unusual to see eroding edges, cracks, depressions and ponding, the latter occurs when rainwater pools. “In effect we could actually repave the whole of Exuma and that could be justified because the roads are in a poor condition.” To address this critical aspect of Exuma’s economy the Ministry of Works turned to Caribbean Pavement Solutions, a subsidiary of Bahamas Striping Group of Companies. The company was selected for the quality of its work and overall conduct. “Caribbean Pavement Solutions is a good contractor. They are consistent with what they do,very professional,” said Mr. Cox.
“Caribbean Pavement Solutions will carry out 10 miles of roadworks in hot mix asphalt which is the better way to go. Sand seal is an older technique which is no longer being practiced in many parts of the world except in rural areas. With the asphalt we should see a better-quality road. It should give us at least 20 years of useful life.” The 10-mile stretch runs from the Exuma International Airport through the town’s center, covering its loop, and extends in the opposite direction from the airport to Sandals Emerald Bay Resort.
“Investing in infrastructure has a profound impact,” said CPS president, Atario Mitchell on Sunday, July 5. “It employs locals, it enables economic development and provides first class roads to safely facilitate the movement of our people and visitors. This upgrade may have been a long time coming, but once our work is completed it would have been well worth the wait.” The scope of work includes verge clearance, removal of existing pavement, raising roads in areas prone to flooding, supply and installation of proper drainage, guardrails replacement in various locations, road markings, erecting stops signs and settlement signs and the installation of thousands of cat eyes. The road paving company will also assist in the design and project management of a proposed three-acre, community park in Moss Town, in walking distance of the L.N. Coakley High School.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the company said its “shovel ready” and set to begin work next month. “We have completed key parts of the topographical work. The road design is completed.
The site has been cleared and fenced for the placement of our asphalt manufacturing plant. We have also identified a contractor from Exuma to carry out the concrete work associated with this project. That contract will be awarded in short order,” CPS managing director, Dr Allen Albury announced today. It’s all welcomed news for the island’s administrator, Ivan Ferguson, who noted Exuma has seen renewed interest from Bahamians and visitors alike in the wake of Hurricane Dorian’s devastating impact on Abaco and Grand Bahama 10 months ago. “We have seen a surge of traffic on our streets and an increase in population, so the road repairs come at a very appropriate and necessary time for Exumians,” said Mr Ferguson.
“Many of our visitors are fearful to go out at night because of the potholes in the road and so this is a very convenient time. It is going to alleviate a lot of the concerns the community has about the roads. We’re elated about the repairs, the signage which will give direction to our visitors and the cat eyes which will supplement the lack of streetlights in some areas.” Keeping roads in good condition contributes to a robust economy and positively impacts the quality of life for all residents, said Pedro Rolle, President of Exuma’s Chamber of Commerce.
“This is positive in a number of ways, the most obvious is the direct employment opportunities it provides to persons locally assisting in the road work project,” he said. “We also need to look at the auxiliary benefits that come along with this. Proper road work encourages foreign direct and local investment in our communities.” The project is slated for completion by March 2021.