Prime Minister Andrew Holness
The initial $2 billion bill for road damage from recent heavy rains is set to significantly escalate following the rains from Tropical Storm Eta.
Speaking in the House of Representatives Tuesday afternoon, Prime Minister Andrew Holness noted that when he gave the original estimate following the passage of Zeta at the end of October, the figure was based on damage to about 80 roadways.
He said preliminary assessment from the National Works Agency (NWA) following Eta shows that 206 roadways have now been affected.
"With this new system, Eta, which just became a hurricane and affected us, we have not yet completed the assessment in terms of the cost, which is what the Minister of Finance was worried about. So, Minister of Finance, the worry is still there, I just can't tell you what it is at this point. But they are doing the assessments," he told the House.
Mr. Holness said the government will have to be strategic in how it carries out the repairs, given the forecast for more rain this weekend and up to January.
He urged persons living in low-lying and flood prone areas and those living in areas where the soil is considered unstable, to be prepared.
Rural St. Andrew
Prime Minister Holness also expressed reservation about repairing some homes and roads in rural St. Andrew, arguing that consideration must be given to relocating some of them.
The area has been severely impacted by the recent heavy rains with landslides and breakaways cutting off many communities.
Mr. Holness said many of these roads close to waterways, such as the Gordon Town main road, were not built to engineering specification.
He suggested it might not be wise to keep spending money to repair them.
"Shouldn't it be that there are other considerations, such as a realignment of the road? Again, these are questions that we as politicians can ask. But they can be objectively answered by engineers and they would have to present to us, which I’ve asked them to present for us, to do the cost benefit to see whether or not a realignment is not a better solution. Now remember, the embankment is 60 feet. It is still unstable soil, so the engineers will have to tell us," he outlined.