I didn’t leave Liberia during the terrible wars. I was taken hostage on my farm in Shiefflin, Margibi County from July 15, 1990- July 13, 1992 by orders of President Charles Taylor.
I’ve lived in Monrovia and its suburbs since 1992 and began to see and notice the dreadful breakdown and gradual decline of our road system. I was the last appointed head of the Operations Bureau of the Ministry of Public Works prior to the war. The decline actually began in the last six months of 1990; the beginning of a breakdown that continued into the 14 years of our civil crisis.
During this period an additional 9 years of relative and total peace all and every needed equipment worth millions of dollars were either destroyed or looted. Most of the trained manpower had left the country; those who remained were sidelined, including me.
You, (Liberians of all walks of life) know the story. I can go on and on. The loss of competency, I’m sad to say, still continues to downplay the correct and proper approach to upkeep the system and forge ahead.
The development of the Liberia Highway Network began around 1952 when the Bureau of Public Roads of the United States of America through the International Cooperation Agency (ICA), the forerunner of the United States Agency for International
Development (USAID), began training surveyors. Some who later became engineers were trained in the United States of America. The American Engineering system was adopted as our own – the engineering principles, designs, and practices combined with the construction and maintenance under the same engineering knowledge.
The United States of America was very cognizant of our needs and began more ways to improve the new field (Engineering). According to our history, Joseph Walker, John Coleman, Joseph Boayou, and others were some of the first group of Liberian Civil Engineers. By 1956, the engineering field had become more attractive and many Liberians followed role models at that time. I got interested in the field while attending the Booker Washington Institute (BWI) and observing the relocation of the Monrovia- Kakata Highway.
By 1963 the major roads began to take on a new approach. The Monrovia – Roberts International Airport (RIA) highway was the first to be located and aligned to reduce distance and travel time by fifty percent (50%). This improved new road covers a distance of +/- 27 miles as compared to the road from Monrovia to Kingsville (15 Gate) through Firestone into the Roberts International Airport, which is a distance of +/- 58 miles. The principal idea was to introduce the toll system, charging a small fee, but the toll system was never accepted. If it had been accepted the two-lane road could have developed into a four – lane road by now.
I returned home from the United Stated in 1964, a qualified engineer, and replaced the late Gabriel Tucker as location engineer on the RIA road. He took a new assignment as Resident Engineer in Maryland County.
After the completion of the location Monrovia- RIA road which was a World Bank Loan Project, I was assigned to locate the Clay-Cape Mount Highway and later located the Mano River Bridge Crossing, another World Bank Loan Project connecting Sierra Leone.
I again located and laid-out the four-lane capital by-pass which was a USAID and government of Liberia funded project. I was later assigned to locate the Pleebo-Barclayville Highway in Maryland and Grand Kru County and then was assigned as resident engineer to Sinoe County, to finish the road from Sinoe to Grand Gedeh Country.
As counterpart engineer assigned with Stanley Consulting Engineers, we studied traffic modes and located the Johnson Street Bridge and Port Access Roads. We had to begin an Origin & Destination study of the traffic modes before finally locating the bridge around 1970.
At a later time, there was a pronouncement from the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs that the Government of Liberia intended to begin improvement of major highways. These roads had been aligned and designed to meet the needs at the time but they were never implemented. I had previously written to the then Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs with an eager mind to assist in the improvement with background knowledge.
I have also offered advice to the Government of Liberia that the Monrovia-Buchanan highway would be better developed using the through-traffic approach. The Farmington River crossing is very necessary now! We can’t improve travel time by driving along narrow curvy roads through the Firestone plantations.
We must develop a definite approach to modern highway principles and get out of concession areas, middle of town-such as Kakata and other areas. I believe this is the right and proper time now when the World Bank is helping us once more. Another approach is re-alignment, which is currently necessary for the Monrovia-Kakata and Gbarnga-Ganta Sanniquellie Highways. It is now time to begin the Kakata adjustment; re-alignment for Kakata which increases travel time and is very dangerous to human safety as it is now.
At present, traffic is located in the center of a major city. The solution to this is to relocate, re-align, and re-design the highway from the Todee intersection to the upper Kakata section into Centa as the highway continues toward Totota. The assessment from the Gbarnga-Ganta Highway and others will fall in place gradually.
The Parkway Ocean Drive in Monrovia is a project that I had already envisioned, and proposed. The purpose is to reduce the over-burdened traffic congestion from Monrovia though Sinkor to Congo Town and Paynesville including a portion of RIA highway. This four-lane driver is still very possible. The government of Liberia could save the beautiful Atlantic Ocean frontage of 100 feet at the end of the wave on the beach into the land.
The Ocean drive is to be located along this 100-foot wide public land which takes in the four lanes and parking areas. If there was a response to the ocean drive proposal, GOL would have known her policy on the Ocean frontage. They would have consulted with the Chinese about this policy, and I am sure the Chinese would have not built their New Embassy there. What is presently needed is to begin the detail engineering to determine how much the entire project will cost, with some adjustment.
Again, I am sure considering the condition we find ourselves in, meaning the lock-jammed traffic some help could come from the World Bank and perhaps some friendly countries or a group of wealthy nations. If anyone reads the Ocean Drive Proposal and sees the design and layout reasons why such a road is necessary, one would ask why not build it now?
Since 1990, our relationship with the Bureau of Public Roads of the United States of America, a technical helping hand, is not noticed by some of us here at home. Liberia could gain a great deal or benefit much more if the technical arm of our government tried to reconnect with the Bureau of Public Roads thru USAID. Several of our engineering practices especially in road technology are repulsive. We noticed during construction the disregard to wetness (the rainy season), a major deterrence to road construction.
What a shame that we cannot see reason not to put goat and sheep in the same room; but what we see today is that we gave employment to those who lack the technical knowledge, therefore it caused us a complete breakdown. They think an administrator can handle the Ministry of Public Works. That person should have some technical knowledge or else it would be a disaster! All the ordinary citizens see and know that the roads being built now are not well-built.
GOL has failed to realize that every trained person in his or her profession strives to be promoted to the top. How did any of you get to the top if not in your field? If we continue to compromise, it will lead to a loss of competitiveness in any profession.
See pure logic and lift Public Works up!
GOL failed to employ qualified professionals in areas necessary for such, instead, doing the opposite.
We end up being jammed! We are not an over populated people. We can build each ministry by itself and develop loose land in the city by this approach. Each ministry by itself moves away from this terrible experience of working as a large office and the confusion and questions about getting around.
Look, people. We have several experienced Liberians who have traveled and worked around the world who know that this approach of building several ministries together is not the proper approach. Liberia has been a nation since 1847. We are a people who were brought into nationhood by a great nation who, too, were brought into nationhood by similar extreme nation building ideas with experience. From that system, our nation now exists.
To change into another system, we must study with several technical approaches; and we should not rush into it. Set up Think Tanks and let us look into it first. The ideology of our system is based on the US system and it is working. Our nation and people are not used to putting different situations, policy, management system and ideas into one building. What are we saving? Cost, Space, or what?
Liberia will use its own system by working separately in each profession or management. We have land within Monrovia to develop our surroundings.
We are okay with our system.
Please see my point before we end up being jammed up together. We are not an over populated people! We can build each ministry by itself and develop several loose lands in Monrovia. We have several experienced people in Liberia who have travelled and seen for themselves.