HIGHWAY TO TOCO TO BEOCME REALITY
Chairman of National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco) Herbert George has estimated the new highway from Sangre Grande to Toco is expected to cost taxpayers between $2 and $5 billion.
The highway, he said, is expected to significantly reduce the driving time of motorists in getting to the proposed Toco ferry port.
This was the figure George gave recently, as he gave details about the billion-dollar project, nine months after Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley promised citizens of the north-eastern region a new Toco ferry port that would link them to Tobago and create economic activity.
Last November, Rowley said the Government was moving apace to develop the highways from Valencia to Toco and Cumuto to Manzanilla, as well as construct a ferry port in Toco, which would generate economic growth, jobs and opportunities for people who live in nearby communities.
George said while the extension of the Solomon Hochoy Highway to Point Fortin was a multi billion-dollar project, so too would be the highway leading to the port.
Asked what would be the estimated cost of this project, George said the figure was in the tune of billions.
“Not less than $2 billion and not more than $5 billion. That is what you are looking at.”
George regarded the project as the second largest for Nidco and the country.
“We have a local consultant firm Arun Buch and Associates Ltd doing the conceptual design. At the end of the day he would have to look at the location, prepare a design for the facility there, bearing in mind the employer’s brief. Butch’s work is expected to take three months to complete,” George said.
He said after consultants presents their design, Nidco would be provided with a cost and tenders would then go out.
“Tendering might be another two to three months.”
He said while the Prime Minister has a keen interest in getting the ferry port off the ground, George estimated that by April 2018 the project would begin with work completing in 18 month’s time.
“Yes, we are working with urgency. When the idea of the fast ferry port was spoken about, some work was done under the last PNM administration about eight or nine years ago. And of course that was just shelved,” George said.
Now that it has being brought back to the table, George said Nidco has undertaken some preliminary designs for a new highway to be built to Toco.
“We did some preliminary designs for the road which was costing taxpayers an arm and a leg. So we have to go back and see how we can tweak it and make it more affordable.”
George refused to say what was the figure Nidco was presented with.
He said Nidco was now considering using part of the existing Toco Main Road, while build a new strip of highway, which, when completed, would be 47 kilometres in length.
“The travel time would be 48 minutes (from Arima),” George said.
George said Nidco had also looked at another option of constructing a new highway from Sangre Grande to Toco totalling 42.6 kilometres, with driving time estimated at 35.3 minutes.
Currently motorists take approximately 90 minutes to get to Toco from Arima.
Would communities along the route be relocated when work gets underway?
“We intend to minimise that. That has it’s own difficulties. We have a route selected that does not require relocating people.”
He said that once Nidco is issued with a terms of reference from the Environmental Management Authority they would hold consultation at a later stage.
“So far, we have held meetings with two groups of people from the Toco end. They wanted to know how the new road will likely affect the existing properties.”
He said the residents were particularly concerned about one environmentally sensitive area, but its designers went around this location in planning the new route.
In giving an insight of the proposed route, George said work on the highway would start north of Ojoe Road in Sangre Grande.
“So there would be a link from there to new Valencia to Toco Road. From there is all the way up to Toco. That point is also tied back to the Churchill Roosevelt Highway.”
He said Nidco would also create access from the Valencia By Pass roundabout to the Ojoe Road.
“That part would not be of a highway quality. It would just be an upgraded section. So the real highway will be from Cumuto to Manzanilla to Ojoe Road. And from there you go up from Valencia to Toco.”
George said the creation of the port would link Trinidad to Tobago.
“If one has a port there. And one has better access to get to that port. First of all it would help ease with the traffic between Port-of-Spain and Toco. You can get on a ferry in Toco so it can cut down the travel time by so much. Once passengers arrive in Toco it would take them about 40 minutes to go from Toco to Tobago in a ferry.”
George said once the sea bridge problems are sorted out it would give the travelling public other options.
“What we would also be doing is opening that east/west corridor. Right now we talk as if the east/west ends in Sangre Grande. The access from there is just horrible. It takes people almost an hour in some cases even more than that to go from Valencia to Toco because the road is so narrow and circuitous,” George said.