Cabinet has decided to extend the Diego Martin Highway from Wendy Fitzwilliam Boulevard to the Diego Martin Main Road. Cabinet has also agreed to construct a vehicular overpass in the vicinity of Powder Magazine in Cocorite.
This was confirmed by the Works and Infrastructure Minister, Mr. Emmanuel George, during Thursday's Post Cabinet Briefing.
He said the cost of the Diego Martin Highway extension will be in the vicinity of $49 million, while the construction of the vehicular overpass at Cocorite has been put at $42 million.
Minister George said both projects are necessary to deal with traffic congestion. It will also benefit commuters in West Trinidad in terms of accessibility and safety.
He noted that officials expect a population increase in the next 20 years in the west and both projects take this into account.
He added, "In respect to the extension of the Highway, we haven't taken a detailed look at where we are going to extend the Highway, the exact route that it will take. It is still being considered but we know that we will be going, as the Highway has been constructed, along the banks of the Diego Martin River. We expect that we are going to find lands that people own there and we will have to therefore do some negotiating with them to acquire those properties and so on."
Minister George expects the Diego Martin Highway Project will begin in 2013 and take two to three years to be completed.
Minister George was asked about lessons learnt on the controversial Point Fortin Highway construction in which some Debe residents and members of the Highway Re-Route Movement staged weeks of demonstration, and whether he expected the same from Diego Martin land owners.
He recounted that the history of building highways in Trinidad is one in which they are built only when the population has increased and roads become too congested. But he said this is a problem Government intends to remedy.
He also noted that decades ago, during the construction of the Sir Solomon Hochoy Highway, Guayamare residents resisted and the Highway had to be built around their settlement with motorists having to take a detour. However in the end, the residents moved out and the Highway was eventually straightened.
He said there are always solutions and he expects the same in the construction of similar projects around the country.
"In respect of the Highway between Golconda, Debe, Penal, Siparia, Fyzabad and heading into La Brea and Point Fortin. I say that deliberately because it is not a Highway between San Fernando and Point Fortin. I want to disabuse people's minds that this is a Highway between San Fernando and Point Fortin. I say that for the simple reason that if you build a Highway between San Fernando and Point Fortin and don't cater for the towns and villages in between, the Highway will not be worth building because it will lose. The economic sense of putting the Highway in place will be lost. The Highway makes sense because it connects all the towns in between."
Minister George is adamant that the Highway will continue.
"I am arguing this on technical grounds because I have found that a lot of what I am hearing is emotive and emotional, that we are destroying the environment. Well let me say when Eric Williams took the decision to build the Beetham Highway, he built it through mangrove. Yes he destroyed the mangrove, but look at the benefits to us today of that Beetham Highway. Think about us living here in Trinidad and driving on the roads without that Beetham Highway. We destroyed the mangroves, but the benefits that it brought to the country and its development far outweighed the cost. We built the Audrey Jeffers Highway through the mangroves. We destroyed the mangroves there too. The environmentalists would have complained but understand how important that Highway has become in the West and to all road users in Trinidad and Tobago. So I am saying to you that our history of building Highways in this country has been a history of building Highways when the existing roadways have become too small to deal with the traffic and we have always connected the towns."