Stubborn Drivers, Pedestrians Slow Somalia Drive Construction

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Construction workers with the Japanese company building the Somalia Drive road, say drivers and pedestrians are obstructing their work and therefore want authorities to ensure that their work is not impeded.

The Somalia Drive Road begins from the Freeport and ends at Red Light in Paynesville. The Japanese Government and the Government of Liberia signed a US$50 million grant on June 2, 2013 for the construction of a four lane road.

The project was delayed due to the Ebola crisis that the country experienced in 2014. Work commenced last year with the first two lanes on the right from Freeport targeted as well as the construction of drainages.

In an interview with the Daily Observer on Somalia Drive yesterday, the construction workers complained that pedestrians and motor vehicles are impeding progress by insisting on using restricted areas and refusing to follow instructions telling them where to pass.

“We are going on with the work, but cars and people continue to embarrass us. When we tell them to use the other side that we are not presently working on, they will not do it and force their way to where we are working,” said construction worker Hilary Okafor.

He said market women have so far remained in the location assigned to them but pedestrians and drivers continue to disobey signs instructing them to stay away from the construction areas.

Okafor said General Services Agency (GSA) Director General Mary Broh’s frequent presence along the road has helped to reduce another problem which is the loss of crushed rocks stolen by unidentified people.

On the progress of the Somalia Drive road construction, Okafor said drainages are being built and the first two lanes are being compressing with crushed rocks. “When we are through with the drainages, we will begin to lay the asphalt,” he said.

Zinnah Johnson, supervisor for the crushed rock production team at the New Georgia Junction, told the Daily Observer that while Madam Broh’s presence on the road has reduced stealing of crushed rocks, they continue to receive insults from pedestrians and drivers for enforcing instructions on signs posted on the road.

“People use the area the machines are supposed to be working on while vehicles do the same. Disobedience nearly caused the death of a girl here not too long ago, and so when we tell them not to use the side we are working on, they insult us and claim that it is their right and we cannot tell them not to do so,” Johnson said.

“Only the stealing has subsided because Madam Broh occasionally visits us and warns residents and others along the road against disobeying the signs, but taking instructions from us is a serious challenge we face,” Johnson said.

The Red Light portion of the road is heavily guarded by the Liberia National Police (LNP). Street vendors usually spread their goods on the side that is under construction while commercial vehicles use the same side, a witness said.

During a tour yesterday, officers of LNP were seen with rattans driving away stubborn vendors and parking vehicles whose drivers were violating instructions.

Authorities of the LNP recently warned drivers, vendors and motorcyclists not to use the side of the Somalia Drive where work is ongoing, but many have refused to abide by that order, holding up progress and frustrating the road building crew.

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