Planning And Decision Making In Transport Infrastructure Dev.

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In Trinidad and Tobago we generally fail to implement the things that are planned but more often over-implement things which are unplanned. The main reason for this is that planning decisions are political decision makers and for short term political reasons. The result as in the case of our transportation infrastructure is the transportation crisis faced throughout the country

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Planning And Decision Making In Transport Infrastructure Dev.

  1. 1. Meeting of Rotary Club of Point-a-Pierre, Petrotrin LakesideClub, 20th January 2011Presentation by Vaughn Lezama – R. Eng., FAPEPlanning and Decision Making Issues in Development ofNational Transportation InfrastructureTwo days ago there was the grand opening of the AranguezOverpass. The fanfare associated with this event would havesuggested to the motoring public that some great relief of theirtraveling woes was at hand. As it turned out, motorists soondiscovered that the traffic jam which occurs during the peakmorning period at the point of convergence of the CRH and UBHighway was simply transferred to a point immediately west ofEl Socorro Junction and there were reports of somedisappointment that the anticipated free flow to POS was notrealized. It should however be noted that some relief wouldindeed be realized when the section of the Beetham Highway onthe west bound approach to the lighthouse in POS is upgraded to3-lanes, which are still under construction at this time. Inaddition the peak afternoon eastbound traffic heading out of POSto Chaguanas and San Fernando would enjoy a well deservedfreeway ride to at least the outskirts of their destination.On the other hand the frustration of motorists going further eastwill continued and this would be the case both during themorning and afternoon peak periods. It would be quite sometime and several hundreds of millions of dollars before anymajor relief can be achieved along the existing CRH, assumingthat the intension or decision is to continue the effort to convert 1
  2. 2. the CRH to freeway status. The reported cost of the AranguezOverpass is $161M (which is said to be $25M under budget) andit was announced that in two to three weeks time construction, ata cost of $430M, of an overpass to eliminate the traffic lights atthe CRH/UB Highway will commence. It is noted further thatthe announced budgeted cost of land acquisition for constructionof the Aranguez overpass was $65M and the cost of ancillaryroads $80M, these costs are not is included in the $161M cost ofthe Overpass structure. Furthermore, the overpass and relatedworks already completed in the Grand Bazaar area exceeds$450M in cost.The cost of the combined Aranguez and Grand Bazaaroverpasses and related frontage roads and bridges is therefore inthe vicinity of $1,086M (161+430+65+450+80) and we haveonly just got started. There are some 15 traffic signalizedintersections along the CRH from POS to Arima. If we were toconvert the existing highly urbanized CRH to a completefreeway I estimate that it would cost much more than the $5.0Bwhich is the current estimated cost for construction of theHighway from San Fernando to Point Fortin and which includesa number of other related road development works in the south.I have said all of this in order to introduce the point I wish tomake with regard to Planning and Decision Making indeveloping our national transportation infrastructure and for thatmatter any aspect of our national development. The question is.Do our decision makers follow plans which have been developedto inform and guide the decision making processes along thepath of development or do they simply make decisions on thebasis of expediency? The evidence which I propose to put to youtonight suggests that when the country is broke or money low we 2
  3. 3. do engage in various planning processes, very often these arefunded by international agencies such as the IADB and theWorld Bank. However, once the treasury is in good standing thedecision making process is very rarely guided by the very planswhich were commissioned at great public expense. In the lattercircumstance, our decision makers embark on the overimplementation of things unplanned and the non implementationof those things which have been planned.Since independence in 1962 the state has commissioned twoNational Transportation Studies. These are the NTS of 1967 andthe CNTS of 2005. Between that period at least two sectorialtransportation studies were commissioned, one being theEast/West Corridor Transportation Study, (I can’t recall thename of any other but the TRRP is not included among these).Both NTS were undertaken by the same engineering firm,Parsons Brinkerhoff, which is a US based engineering firm.The 1967 NTS identified the CR Highway as an urban highwaywhich straddles the southern perimeter of the towns along thepopulated east-west corridor. This Highway is frequentlytraversed by intersections along its entire length and as such itscapacity to handle high volume traffic is severely compromised.Substantial improvement in the capacity of this Highway wouldrequire the construction of numerous intersection overpasses orother major improvement measures at each intersection.The 1967 NTS therefore recommended as an alternative to theCR Highway the construction of a new six lane freeway paralleland south of the CR Highway to be known as the Southern LinkFreeway. This highway would have commenced from theBarataria Interchange, veering south and then east, crossing the 3
  4. 4. UB Highway with a major intersection near the Caroni River andcontinuing further east to the present Macoya Junction. Allsouth-bound traffic would exit at the intersection of the SouthernLink Freeway and the UB Highway. This recommendation wasat the time considered to be most valuable in the development ofthe country’s transportation infrastructure and as such the designof this Highway infrastructure was commissioned to a jointventure team consisting of a local and foreign engineering firmsometime around the mid- eighties when the treasury was low.The design for this freeway, including Environmental ImpactAssessment, construction drawings, specifications and tenderdocumentation were completed in entirety, the consultants paidin full and the designs submitted to the relevant authority.Due to the economic circumstances at the time, construction ofthe Southern Link Freeway was deferred. However, even withthe turnaround in our economic fortunes, there was never areview of this important transport infrastructure to determine theextent to which the design could have been modified orimplemented in phases to meet the growing traffic volume alongthe east-west corridor and more so the north-south traffic whichis required to joint the east-west traffic on the CR Highway.Instead of considering construction of the Southern LinkFreeway for which there existed complete engineering designs,our decision makers decided to embark on the construction of amajor facility at the CRH and UB Highway intersection sincethis idea had gained enormous political currency as a result ofthe daily traffic pileup faced by the traveling public at thatintersection. As it turned out the recommendation to constructthe Southern Link Freeway was again repeated in the 2005CNTS so that the transportation planners have recognized that 4
  5. 5. this Highway continues to be an important element for thedevelopment of the national transportation infrastructure.My estimation is that implementation of the Southern LinkFreeway would have carried a cost of more than $2.0B andtogether with the four-lane dualling of the CR Highway andother road improvement works in POS would have provided amore sustainable and cost effective solution to the East-WestCorridor transportation nightmare as compared to the ongoingchallenges and cost associated with the construction ofoverpasses along the CR Highway.Now, how did we arrive at this state of crisis? I submit that is theresult of poor decision making rather than a lack of planning.The CRH and UBH intersection is where the east-west andnorth-south traffic meet and it is recognized as the busiestintersection in the country. With the continued growth invehicular traffic, commuters became increasingly frustrated withthe traffic pileup at that intersection and believed that some formof elevated interchange at the location was necessary to solve thetraffic woes. Of course the average man in the street would notrecognize that the reason traffic seems to be free flowingimmediately after the intersection is because of the constrictiontaking place at the intersection. However, once this becomes freethe problem is transferred to the next intersection unless there areimprovements there as well and so on. The planners howeverwould know this and would therefore seek to recommendsolutions that are sustainable for at least a minimum desiredperiod until other improvements are implemented.With the general call by the traveling public for someimprovement at the UB/CRH intersection, the construction ofsome form of overpass became an attractive political 5
  6. 6. proposition. Several proposals, both solicited and unsolicited,began to surface and these culminated with a proposal whichbecame known as the Humphrey’s Arch. Engineering designs forthis proposal were commissioned and substantially advanced andthe public was sold on the brilliant idea. Construction of theproposed Arch Bridge became embroiled in controversy withregard to the procurement processes and did not get off theground before there was a change in regime. By that time theidea of an overpass at the intersection had already gained publicacclaim and valuable political currency. As a result, the newdecision maker occupying the Ministry of Works decided tomove forward with the project but with a new and differentdesign at further cost to taxpayers and part of which is theoverpass at the Gran Bazaar which we have today. At no timewas any decision made to review the designs for the SouthernLink Freeway to consider its implementation in whole or in part.When this question was posed to the last outgoing Minister ofWorks his response was that his Ministry in fact reviewed thedesign and found that it was not feasible. Suffice it to sayhowever, that the 2005 CNTS, like the 1967 NTS recommendedconstruction of the Southern Link Highway. Previously thishighway was proposed from POS to Macoya while in the lateststudy it was proposed in three phases, POS to the UBHInterchange, the UBH Interchange to Piarco and Piarco toWallerfield. It should be noted that by the time the CNTS wasbeing prepared the UBH Interchange was a done deal, hence theproposed realignment to the UBH Interchange instead of thepreviously proposed Interchange with the UBH near the CaroniRiver Bridge.In general, the reason for undertaking transportation studies fromtime to time is to inform the planning and implementation 6
  7. 7. processes required to satisfy identifiable needs in keeping withthe country’s development objectives. How, therefore do weexplain the launching of the $19B first phase of the NNHPmega-project in October 2009, which included the constructionof highways, proposed to commenced in 2010, but which theRoadway Capital Development Program identified by the CNTSproposed a 2014 – 2018 implementation period while at the sametime numerous other road development programs with an earlierimplementation timeline are left unattended. Incidentallyextension of the SHH to point Fortin was given a 2009 – 2013implementation period in the CNTS and it is reported that thisproject will comment very shortly. (This is a project we havebeen seriously talking about since the early 80s).In closing my final observation is that urban centres around thecountry such as Chaguanas, Couva/Point Lisas, Gasparillo/Point-a-Pierre, San Fernando, Arima, Four Road, Diego Martin,Valencia/Sangre Grande, etc. are in crisis as far as theirtransportation infrastructure is concerned. Yet simple and cost-effective recommendations for relieve proposed by varioustransportation studies are overlooked. (I should add that therecent cost-effective traffic management measures recentlyimplemented in Chaguanas is however commendable). It wouldappear that that we have recently experienced an era in whichthere was a continuous search for mega projects which veryoften were solutions to mini or non-existent problems whilethere were many mega problems that could have been solved bymini solutions. I would therefore like to advise this audiencetonight that the transportation crisis which faces the countrytoday is not the result of the failure of engineers or engineeringor a reflection of the country’s engineering capability but rather 7
  8. 8. it is the result of the indulgences of our decision makers. Ihereby rest my case. Thank You. 8

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