Although many people along the Somalia Drive felt disenchanted when massive demolition that went on to give way to its pavement, pedestrians, taxi drivers and street vendors are now beginning to smile as the first two lanes of the Somalia Drive road were laid with asphalt pavement.
When the Daily Observer toured the road recently, onlookers were seen using phones to take pictures of the ongoing development, confessing that though they faced pains during the eviction, they are glad the result is being realized.
Commercial drivers too, seeing the benefit of the road when paved, were heard saying that having a good road helps to adjust transportation fares in spite of government’s mandate.
“This road has been very bad, and even if government passes a mandate that transportation fare comes down, it is difficult for us to abide by it because we burn much gas as a result of the slow driving on the rough road,” a taxi driver said.
Frequent travelers also admitted that they used to pay not less than LRD$1,000 from Monrovia to Ganta, Nimba County and Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, but with the availability of paved roads leading to these two counties, more vehicles are plying thereon and transportation fares have dropped.
“Road is development, and if there were good roads leading to all the counties in this country, you will not see Monrovia crowded with people because investors will go into the other counties and what people need will be provided there,” a female passenger said.
The Somalia Drive Road has been in disrepair over the years until in 2012 when the Japanese Government provided US$50 million grant to pave it from Freeport to Red Light in Paynesville.
It could not start immediately after the grant signing due to some undisclosed circumstances. Furthermore, the 2014 Ebola health disaster contributed to the delay.
Since 2015 engineers have been constructing concrete drainages in the middle of the newly designed four-lane road and building a new bridge over the Stockton Creek.
The asphalt pavement began in December 2016 from Red Light and is moving towards the Freeport end.
According to insiders working on the road, the project is set to be completed three years from the day of commencement.
Meanwhile, the Japanese-funded Somalia Drive road is one of the major infrastructure projects in the regime of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
It may be recalled that two other major road projects have been completed; the Cotton Tree-Buchanan Highway and the Red Light to Ganta-Guinea border road.
Since these roads were completed and vehicles began to regularly ply them, transportation fares have dramatically dropped.
On a taxi from Monrovia to Buchanan is now LRD$400 (previously $700 to $800). The NTA bus charges $250.
Prior to the reconstructing of the road from Red Light to Ganta, travelers paid L$1,300 on a taxi while $800 was paid on a bus, but now $700 is paid on a taxi while the maximum amount on a bus is $500. Buses belonging to the National Transit Authority (NTA) charge $400 even at the time when the road was in a deplorable condition.