Public Works, Please Go to Red Light and Act

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Everyone knows that the Paynesville Red Light Market is the country’s biggest food market. Being the nation’s capital and most populous city, the lion’s share of food produced in Liberia is transported to Monrovia for purchase and consumption.

Trucks, pickups and taxicabs from all over the country find their way on a daily basis to the Paynesville Red Light Market, where agricultural produce is sold wholesale and retail. The wholesale goods are purchased by Red Light marketers, especially market women, as well as by marketers from other major marketplaces in the capital—Douala, Waterside General Market, Rally Time Market, the Jorkpen Town Market and the Matadi Market.

Yet, the Red Light area is one of the most difficult places to pass through. This automatically drives up the price of produce, since the transporters of the food will charge extra for the terrible road conditions—the mud, water, ditches, potholes, etc. Here is where the Ministry of Public Works (MPW) comes in.

Public Works Minister Gyude Moore cannot afford to ignore this major road crisis, which was highlighted by Observer Editor Omari Jackson on the back page of Wednesday’s Daily Observer.

Mr. Jackson interviewed a driver who in frustration declared, “Maybe it is a curse that we cannot get the Ministry of Public Works to make good its promise to improve the roads in this area.”

A curse? By no means! Yet it is difficult to understand why the Ministry has taken so long to go to Red Light and act—or do what it has to do to alleviate the pain that these marketers, and the drivers and vehicles that bring the produce to the market, go through on a daily basis.

Quite recently, this newspaper, through an editorial, brought to the attention of the MPW the worsening road condition at the Paynesville-GSA Road intersection. Surely the Ministry does not want to wait until the road becomes completely impassible, causing commuters to use the Du Port-Rehab route to get to the ELWA Intersection. Imagine the traffic congestion and the time that would be lost!

We are aware of the grand plan the government has in place to pave the highway from the ELWA Junction to Ganta. This project will, of course necessitate the fixing, even the modernization, of the passage through the Red Light Market. But how long will the Red Light portion of the project take before it is started? The whole country must pass through Paynesville and Red Light to get to and from Kakata and beyond. What would happen should there be a complete breakdown on that road?

We urge Public Works Minister Gyude Moore to go and see the road condition at Red Light and put his people and yellow machines to work, before it is too late.

Let him remember the poor people, the struggling marketers and their children – many of who must follow their mothers because they cannot afford daycare.

We mention the poor because the worse the road conditions, the higher the cost of transportation, and the greater prices of foodstuffs. We mention the poor because they are the ones with the least to spend, even on the vital and indispensable item of food. So anything we can do to help reduce the cost of food will go a long way to alleviate the plight of the poor. Does the MPW or anyone else remember the much talked and written about “Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS)”? Believe it or not, the link between bad roads and the corresponding cost of everything, especially food, is a veritable part of the PRS.

There is another matter of grave concern – it has to do with safety at the Red Light, which everyone knows is one of the most densely populated places in the republic. We have seen how many heavily loaded containers have crashed into other vehicles in various places, causing casualties. Many of the containers that depart the Free Port of Monrovia end up at Red Light or pass through that area en route to Kakata and beyond.

What if a container enters a pool of water without knowing how deep, and tumbles over near many peddlers selling their wares? People could be killed or seriously wounded, and these could include children, who would be crushed.

We sound this warning to emphasize the urgency of the road situation at Red Light. We think we need not say more. We pray that Minister Moore and his team will listen . . . and act.

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