MONROVIA-The long awaited pavement on Liberia’s major international highway, a major route leading to the Roberts International Airfield in Margibi County has begun.

East International Group, Inc., the contractor for the construction of RIA road corridor, commenced the asphalt pavement work from SKD Sports complex on June 7, 2023 after intensive day-night work for the past few months.

According to the report, the road section from SKD Sports complex to ELWA market is scheduled to be paved by the end of June, 3.5km of asphalt pavement is scheduled to be completed by the end of July, and the road section from SKD Sports complex to Rehab Community is scheduled to be completed by August of this year.

The 45-kilometer road project commenced in September 2021, and was scheduled for completion within three years with targeted completion in 2024. It is estimated to cost US$116 million.

On completion, according to the contractor, the expanded RIA highway will comprise a four-lane road with street and traffic lights along the route and at intersections. It will also have standardized culvert and drainage systems.

Liberia’s Public Works Minister, Ruth Coker Collins, had said that significant progress had been made, and road pavement works were expected to start before the rainy season begins.

She spoke on the issues encountered during project implementation and how they have been tackled. The workforce for the project has been increased, and international experts have also been brought into the country to build local capacity.

“For the RIA highway, we expect to do pavement before the rainy season. We have started placing sub-base courses on both sides and expect to start from ELWA up to five kilometers. That’s why we are putting in a lot of time,” said Collins.

She also disclosed that the asphalt pavement of the stretch from the airport would begin and said the three-year project that started in September 2021 would end on schedule in 2024. The project is pre-financed for a five-year period, which includes two years of “defense and maintenance”.

There have been multiple concerns about East International’s ability to implement the multi-million dollar contract, especially in the absence of equipment.

Despite the many concerns, Sakona Kelvin Buima the company’s General Manager, says he is confident that his company can do a good job and deliver before the deadline.

According to him, all equipment needed for the first phase of the project has been procured and the work has started.

Kevin is hopeful of handing over a complete project by 2023 to the Liberian Government and its people. “We now have money to begin the work. As we speak, all of the contractors are being paid, engineers are also being paid and we are hopeful that by 2023 the project will be completed,” Kevin said.

For Mr. Tony Tang, Project Supervisor, the contractors are currently working on the super base of the road which is the first phase of layer works. (Unbound” material is a term that describes a general type of pavement course). Mr. Toney also informed this paper that what stands as a major challenge for the project is the Junk River which he said is 110 meters.

The framework calls for the project to be executed into three lots which include: 1) from Roberts International Airport to Junk River Bridge; 2) from Junk River Bridge to ELWA junction and; 3) the construction of the Junk River Bridge and the upgrading of the existing bridge.

The civil works with the actual construction of the road project is valued at US$80 million; design and supervision cost valued at US$7 million; and the management and resettlement action plan valued at US$7.5 million,” Madam Kialain explained. “The length of the road is 45 km or 27.8 miles.

The design of the road takes into consideration many factors, including population density, social activities, and topography, which led the highway into different sections. The new road, when completed, will have a toll location, which is the Junk River Bridge.”

The RIA Road is a project that is long overdue because of the safety hazards presented by its narrowness and darkness. The RIA Highway has been a death trap since it was built in the 1940’s, during World War Two. In the 70 years of its existence, it has claimed the lives of thousands of unfortunate passengers, both Liberians and foreigners alike.

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