It was all joy and jubilation when President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her entourage entered Margibi and Bong counties to officially dedicate the newly completed Red-Light to Gbarnga highway.
The dedication was one of the milestones of the Unity Party led administration—the asphalt pavement from Red-Light-Gbarnga-Ganta and up to the Guinean border.
President Sirleaf said during the ceremony that the dedication of the road is indeed a dream comes true not just for the benefiting counties, but the entire country, because it is the opening of one of the major economic corridors of the country. The project, she said, is another boost to the government’s infrastructure development.
She repeated calls for Liberians to take ownership of the road, especially at a time when donor support to the country is winding down, saying it is the only way the infrastructure development drive of the country will be sustainable.
She further called on transport unions operating in the country to figure how they can now start contributing periodically to help government with the maintenance of the roads.
President Sirleaf had just returned to the country (on Tuesday) following her participation in the High-level Panel of the World Bank Group—one of the major funders of the road project. The dedication comes just after two years of construction work carried out by the Chinese Company, CICO.
The President called on the citizens of the benefiting counties, especially Bong and Nimba counties – two economic hubs of the country – to take ownership of the road, which according to her will improve access, ensure regional integration, and enhance economic cooperation among the four Mano River Union countries. She expressed deep satisfaction over the completion of the project.
“To you the people of Bong and Margibi, and the Liberian people in general, let me say the progress we have made belongs to you,” President Sirleaf said joyously. She made a similar statement during the dedication of Lot 2 of the project, which was from Gbarnga-Ganta. This was constructed by another Chinese company, CHICO.
President Sirleaf also paid tribute to all stakeholders and development partners for the joint effort aimed at ensuring the implementation of the road project. She observed that development is not solely the prerogative of the Liberian government, but that citizens too have a critical part to play.
The dedication of the 176.7 kilometer Red-Light-Gbarnga Road project by Madam Sirleaf was held at the Nyanforla Bridge bordering Margibi and Bong counties.
The project (Red-Light-Gbarnga-Guinea Border road pavement) was valued at nearly US$250 million. During the construction period, the Public Works Minister and others, including World Bank, EU and members of the Liberian Legislature, made several assessment tours of the project to note progress, challenges and value for the money pumped into the project for its completion.
At the dedication ceremony yesterday, all the major partners, including World Bank, the European Union and others, were present.
The World Bank and the EU are among major funders of the project under the Liberia Reconstruction Trust Fund, geared towards the cost of the Liberia Urban and Rural infrastructure rehabilitation Project.
Under the output and performance based contract (payments are done based on specified satisfactory completion of segments) the construction companies will spend up to 10 years on maintenance alone.
The total project is about 250 kilometers. Lot 1 runs from Red-Light (Coca Cola factory) to Gbarnga City, while Lot 2, contracted to CHICO, stretches from Gbarnga to Ganta and to the Liberian border with Guinea.
Minister of Public Works Gyude Moore expressed satisfaction with the completion of the project and lauded the company for its speedy completion. “The contracting entity has done a significant job and we are very pleased with the end of this project today,” he said.
Moore said as the road has now been completed, it would reduce cost of traveling, boost the economy and the delivery of goods and social services. “It is already making impact, reducing the length of time spent on the road,” he said.
He warned motorists not to misuse the road, and called on them to strive to always focus on safety first.
World Bank’s new Country Manager in Liberia Larisa Leshchenko praised the contractors for the seriousness attached to the project and for its completion. The project started in the midst of the Ebola virus outbreak, driving several partners away from the country.
The World Bank’s Country Manager applauded Public Works Minister Moore for his resilience in engaging all stakeholders since the beginning of the project.
In March of this year, President Sirleaf officially dedicated Lot 2 of the project, which extended from Gbarnga-Ganta to border with Guinea