…as Govt to seek more loans from India as bypass road costs spike by US$70M…$38.5 billion set aside for public infrastructureBy Jarryl BryanGovernment has allocated $38.5 billion of the 2019 Budget for infrastructural projects. This includes, among other things, money for six kilometres of paved roads in Linden, extension of the highway from Hope Canal to Mahaica and a feasibility study for a Linden to Mabura road link.An artistic rendering of the three-lane Demerara bridgeThis was announced by Finance Minister Winston Jordan, during the presentation of a $300.7 billion 2019 Budget. When it comes to the Public Infrastructure Ministry, Jordan said the monies allocated for all capital projects constitute 71.9 per cent of the total budget for the Ministry. The allocation has also increased from the $32 billion the Ministry received last year.According to Jordan, the East Coast-East Bank Demerara road linkage project (Ogle bypass) has jumped from a cost of US$50 million to US$120 million.He noted that Government would approach its bilateral partner, the Export-Import Bank of India, for more funds.This ECD-EBD bypass project is expected to be 26 kilometres of road linking two of the country’s main thoroughfares. This new road link will also be connected to key communities in Georgetown and along the East Bank of Demerara. Those include Diamond, Mocha, Eccles – all on the East Bank – and Aubrey Barker Road, South Ruimveldt in Georgetown.The project has, however, ran into some trouble with swamps between Ogle and Diamond. With a budgeted allocation of $45 million to start preparatory works, Jordan said the area would be drained and works done to facilitate the main construction.New Demerara River crossingWhen Government annulled the tender for proposals for the new Demerara River crossing, it attracted criticism separate from persons who also slammed the Government for sole sourcing a $146 million feasibility study for the crossing.Jordan revealed that help has been sought from the Caribbean Development Bank to revise the Expressions of Interest in order to retender the project by this year end. But the evaluation of the bid proposals, a job normally handled by the ministry’s technical staff, will be outsourced at a cost of $100 million of taxpayers’ money.“At the same time, we are working with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to secure the services of technical experts to support our evaluation of the proposals that are expected to be opened towards the end of March 2019, and to facilitate the next steps in the P3 [Public-Private Partnership] process. To this end, the sum of $100 million has been budgeted, in 2019, to finance the services of these technical experts.”Interior linkageJordan explained that the road from Linden to Mabura in Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Upper Berbice), will be 125 kilometres long. Beside the road, the Minister explained that the feasibility study could encompass the bridge across the Kurupukari River. All this, according to Jordan, will be done with the support of key development partners.He touched on the Linden to Lethem road link, which he insisted would be a main hub of hinterland connectivity. He noted that it was still in pre-construction stage, while the Brazilian Government is still being engaged on developing the road from Mabura to Lethem.Government has also allocated $134 million to execute studies and designs to rehabilitate the 72km Linden-Soesdyke Highway. He noted the potential for more development of the lands on both sides of the Highway for housing, commercial and industrial development. This, he said, also has implications for industrial applications for Guyana’s high-grade silica sands.“To complete our integrated road connectivity, we have already commenced discussions with interested development partners to secure funding to extend the road to Soesdyke/Timehri, to form a continuous link from Georgetown to Lethem and, via the Takutu Bridge, to the Trans-Continental Highway connecting South, Central and North America.”“It is this careful and detailed planning that will ensure that the provision of enhanced infrastructure meet the needs of our people and the country. When completed, this by-pass road will open over 15,000 hectares of housing, industrial and commercial lands, and provide much relief to the horrendous traffic bottlenecks on the East Bank Highway.”Four-lane road expansionJordan explained that works would continue on the East Coast of Demerara, on the four-lane road expansion project from Better Hope to Annandale. He also noted the upgrade would continue from Buxton to Belfield, with further extensions planned for the East Coast Highway from Belfield to Hope Canal Bridge.“Meanwhile, the Islamic Development Bank is considering our proposal to upgrade and widen the remainder of the East Coast Highway from Hope Canal Bridge to Mahaica. In parallel, reconstruction works will commence to upgrade the Railway Embankment road from Enmore to Hope Canal Bridge.”According to Jordan, this will create “a second access road – parallel to the East Coast Highway – from the Hope Canal Bridge to Sheriff Street. The Government anticipates that, in the coming years, this improvement of the road network will continue to Rosignol.”Jordan stressed that urban, suburban and rural communities have not been forgotten.