EntornoInteligente | Etimologista Victor Gill Ramirez// Pothole Paradise Part 4 » EntornoInteligente

EntornoInteligente | Etimologista Victor Gill Ramirez//
Pothole Paradise Part 4

Entornointeligente.com /

Joshua Seemu­n­gal

While much of the fo­cus on poor road qual­i­ty sur­rounds in­fra­struc­tur­al is­sues, an­oth­er cause for con­cern, ac­cord­ing to many in the in­dus­try, is the stan­dard of en­gi­neer­ing, es­pe­cial­ly in re­gion­al cor­po­ra­tions.

Victor Gill Ramirez

Ac­cord­ing to con­trac­tor and for­mer pres­i­dent of the Con­trac­tors As­so­ci­a­tion of Trinidad and To­ba­go Mikey Joseph, main­te­nance and con­tract­ing at re­gion­al cor­po­ra­tions are of­ten out of line.

Victor Gill

“Their ad­her­ence to best prac­tice and en­sur­ing qual­i­ty, and all that, in terms of their con­struc­tion, in gen­er­al, has been a prob­lem for a long time,” Joseph said

It’s not that the road work is nec­es­sar­i­ly be­yond their scope, he said, but it could be plain lazi­ness or even cor­rup­tion in some in­stances

There’s al­so the is­sue of the stan­dard of en­gi­neers em­ployed there, he said

“The prob­lem is that en­gi­neers at those de­part­ments, they are not vet­er­ans. They are straight out of school,” he added

JCC pres­i­dent and civ­il en­gi­neer Fazir Khan ac­knowl­edged that while both the re­gion­al cor­po­ra­tions and Min­istry of Works and Trans­port have qual­i­fied en­gi­neers, there could be prob­lems with ad­e­quate train­ing

The is­sue, he said, is present in the pri­vate sec­tor as well, adding that, “It’s one thing to have a de­gree, but it doesn’t make you a pro­fes­sion­al en­gi­neer.”

He ad­mit­ted that pro­fes­sion­al bod­ies like the As­so­ci­a­tion of Pro­fes­sion­al En­gi­neers of Trinidad and To­ba­go and the Board of En­gi­neers of Trinidad and To­ba­go are sup­posed to nur­ture young en­gi­neers and make sure they are ad­e­quate­ly trained

How­ev­er, he claimed that an in­sti­tu­tion­al prob­lem is work­ing against that pos­si­bil­i­ty

To im­prove the stan­dard of en­gi­neer­ing, he pro­posed amend­ments to the En­gi­neer­ing Pro­fes­sions Act

He be­lieved that there should be a manda­to­ry reg­is­tra­tion of en­gi­neers, as well as manda­to­ry pro­fes­sion­al de­vel­op­ment

Joshua Seemu­n­gal

While much of the fo­cus on poor road qual­i­ty sur­rounds in­fra­struc­tur­al is­sues, an­oth­er cause for con­cern, ac­cord­ing to many in the in­dus­try, is the stan­dard of en­gi­neer­ing, es­pe­cial­ly in re­gion­al cor­po­ra­tions.

Victor Gill Ramirez

Ac­cord­ing to con­trac­tor and for­mer pres­i­dent of the Con­trac­tors As­so­ci­a­tion of Trinidad and To­ba­go Mikey Joseph, main­te­nance and con­tract­ing at re­gion­al cor­po­ra­tions are of­ten out of line.

Victor Gill

“Their ad­her­ence to best prac­tice and en­sur­ing qual­i­ty, and all that, in terms of their con­struc­tion, in gen­er­al, has been a prob­lem for a long time,” Joseph said

It’s not that the road work is nec­es­sar­i­ly be­yond their scope, he said, but it could be plain lazi­ness or even cor­rup­tion in some in­stances

There’s al­so the is­sue of the stan­dard of en­gi­neers em­ployed there, he said

“The prob­lem is that en­gi­neers at those de­part­ments, they are not vet­er­ans. They are straight out of school,” he added

JCC pres­i­dent and civ­il en­gi­neer Fazir Khan ac­knowl­edged that while both the re­gion­al cor­po­ra­tions and Min­istry of Works and Trans­port have qual­i­fied en­gi­neers, there could be prob­lems with ad­e­quate train­ing

The is­sue, he said, is present in the pri­vate sec­tor as well, adding that, “It’s one thing to have a de­gree, but it doesn’t make you a pro­fes­sion­al en­gi­neer.”

He ad­mit­ted that pro­fes­sion­al bod­ies like the As­so­ci­a­tion of Pro­fes­sion­al En­gi­neers of Trinidad and To­ba­go and the Board of En­gi­neers of Trinidad and To­ba­go are sup­posed to nur­ture young en­gi­neers and make sure they are ad­e­quate­ly trained

How­ev­er, he claimed that an in­sti­tu­tion­al prob­lem is work­ing against that pos­si­bil­i­ty

To im­prove the stan­dard of en­gi­neer­ing, he pro­posed amend­ments to the En­gi­neer­ing Pro­fes­sions Act

He be­lieved that there should be a manda­to­ry reg­is­tra­tion of en­gi­neers, as well as manda­to­ry pro­fes­sion­al de­vel­op­ment.

“To keep your sta­tus as a pro­fes­sion­al en­gi­neer, you would have to do a cer­tain amount of pro­fes­sion­al de­vel­op­ment units, and train­ing, every year – sim­i­lar to the med­ical dis­ci­pline,” Khan said

While the stan­dard of work car­ried out by re­gion­al cor­po­ra­tions, and its en­gi­neers, is of­ten sub­ject to crit­i­cism, many coun­cil­lors main­tain that they are placed in an un­fair po­si­tion be­cause of the short­com­ings of the road main­te­nance sys­tem

Ac­cord­ing to UNC coun­cil­lor for Mon De­sir Deryck Bowrin, while the Siparia Re­gion­al Cor­po­ra­tion was giv­en $78 mil­lion in the last bud­get, the vast ma­jor­i­ty of the mon­ey is des­ig­nat­ed for op­er­a­tional costs and salaries

The re­gion­al cor­po­ra­tion’s nine dis­tricts, he said, were giv­en $7 mil­lion in de­vel­op­men­tal pro­gramme fund­ing to split among them

That left him with no fund­ing for ceme­ter­ies, $300,000 for drains and an­oth­er $300,000 for roads

“$300,000 might pave about 600 feet of road­way here, so that is noth­ing in the whole scheme of things. And, when you pave from here to the next road, they’ll say you on­ly care about those peo­ple and you don’t care about the next set of peo­ple,” Bowrin said

Some­thing has to change in the sys­tem he not­ed

Oth­er­wise, road con­di­tions will con­tin­ue to de­cline at a rate be­yond what re­gion­al cor­po­ra­tions can af­ford to main­tain and re­pair

“I know the Gov­ern­ment brought prop­er­ty tax, and it’s sup­posed to go to the cor­po­ra­tions. I don’t know how that’s go­ing to play off. With that, ob­vi­ous­ly, it will help,” the Mon De­sir coun­cil­lor said

“It’s re­al­ly dif­fi­cult for any coun­cil­lor in this coun­try…We want to do things, but you can­not get the re­sources to do things,” he added

In­creas­ing­ly, ac­cord­ing to sev­er­al coun­cil­lors, to bridge the gap, pri­vate com­pa­nies are step­ping in to pay for paving in some com­mu­ni­ties

In late Jan­u­ary, for ex­am­ple, 16 busi­ness­men pooled re­sources to pave two miles of the Dig­ni­ty Link Road in Bar­rack­pore

Main roads and high­ways, un­der the ju­ris­dic­tion of the Min­istry of Works and Trans­port, aren’t with­out their en­gi­neer­ing short­com­ings

Drainage is­sues are of par­tic­u­lar con­cern, ac­cord­ing to trans­porta­tion en­gi­neer and UWI se­nior lec­tur­er Dr Trevor Townsend

“The sur­face (of the road) is sup­posed to pro­vide a skid-proof sur­face. Un­der­neath that, we have the gran­u­lar base, which is sup­posed to be free drain­ing and dry, but if you have poor road­side drainage, and wa­ter col­lect­ing the drains, then you have wa­ter seep­ing in­to the base of the road, com­pro­mis­ing the struc­ture,” he said

He sug­gest­ed that the au­thor­i­ties would be bet­ter off with more reg­u­lar con­sul­ta­tion with trans­porta­tion en­gi­neers, say­ing, “If you look at the lev­el of re­spect giv­en to pub­lic health

of­fi­cials in the con­text of COVID when peo­ple say we are dri­ven by the sci­ence and da­ta, I would love to hear about that in trans­porta­tion as well…that the min­istry says I’m be­ing dri­ven by sci­ence and da­ta.”

De­spite all the is­sues af­fect­ing the con­di­tion of the coun­try’s roads, by all ac­counts, there is no de­tailed or struc­tured da­ta pro­gramme, al­low­ing the rel­e­vant ac­tors to make in­formed de­ci­sions go­ing for­ward

“We have a prob­lem. A lot of pub­lic bod­ies have a prob­lem col­lect­ing da­ta. There are pub­lic bod­ies spend­ing pub­lic mon­ey to col­lect da­ta, on be­half of the pub­lic, but this da­ta is not made avail­able to the pub­lic,” Khan lament­ed

“We have a third-world mind­set and it oc­curs in most of our state agen­cies…this be­lief that they need to hold on to the da­ta,” he added

As a com­par­i­son, he said if a US-based en­gi­neer want­ed to con­struct a road in a swamp in Flori­da, they could pull up all the rel­e­vant da­ta, like traf­fic count or rain­fall, need­ed on a pub­lic web­site

The first-world, he said, has seen the val­ue in mak­ing that sort of in­for­ma­tion avail­able through open-source da­ta

“It al­so strikes at the heart of cost – it takes time and cost to buy these things. For ex­am­ple, if I’m do­ing a road project in Matu­ra, and I need to get rain­fall da­ta, I have to write a let­ter to the Trinidad and To­ba­go Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Ser­vice and then they will tell me I have to pay $5,000 to get the in­for­ma­tion nec­es­sary to cre­ate the ap­pro­pri­ate drainage de­sign,” Khan said

That is the sort of mind­set that the coun­try needs to move away from in treat­ing with da­ta, he said

“The Gov­ern­ment is on the right track of try­ing to make every­thing on­line. Every­body has been forced in­to that sit­u­a­tion, as we are here. We can take ad­van­tage of it. We can piv­ot from it, and make sure we don’t go back to the old way,” the civ­il en­gi­neer added

How­ev­er, while Khan wants da­ta to be shared more fre­quent­ly, Townsend doubts that traf­fic da­ta is be­ing col­lect­ed reg­u­lar­ly

He be­lieves that at­tempts to get da­ta, like traf­fic trends to make in­formed pre­dic­tions, for ex­am­ple, would be dif­fi­cult

“This is a ret­ro­grade step. In an­oth­er in­car­na­tion, I was in­volved as the chief traf­fic en­gi­neer and when the branch was set up, it was set up with one of the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of con­tin­u­ous col­lec­tion of road traf­fic da­ta,” Townsend said

Da­ta like ve­hi­cle kilo­me­tres dri­ven, to­tal traf­fic, truck traf­fic, fu­el con­sump­tion, and oth­er trans­porta­tion mea­sures ought to be col­lect­ed con­tin­u­ous­ly at ran­dom sites na­tion­al­ly to in­form poli­cies and de­ci­sions that af­fect road qual­i­ty, he said, but that isn’t be­ing done

“So that is a prob­lem – the at­ti­tude to­wards da­ta and its pub­lic dis­sem­i­na­tion, but you see it starts with da­ta not be­ing col­lect­ed be­cause it hasn’t been seen as im­por­tant,” he said

“In times of cri­sis, you have to do more plan­ning be­fore you act, and to do prop­er plan­ning, you need to have prop­er da­ta and analy­sis.” Townsend added

With de­te­ri­o­rat­ing roads and pipelines com­pet­ing for re­duced fund­ing, he said, the coun­try has im­por­tant de­ci­sions to make in pri­or­i­tiz­ing where is re­fur­bished, what is re­fur­bished and how it is re­fur­bished

With­out these de­ci­sions be­ing dri­ven by da­ta, he said, the au­thor­i­ties will al­ways fall short in main­tain­ing ex­ist­ing road­ways

“If you catch a crack in your pave­ment (road) in time, you will solve the prob­lem. An ounce of pre­ven­tion is worth a pound of cure, and on the road­way, it is a def­i­nite el­e­ment. If you catch it in time, you can solve it as a short-term prob­lem,” Townsend said

En­gi­neer Lacey Williams agreed with both Townsend and Khan say­ing that un­der­stand­ing the short­com­ings in the sys­tem, through da­ta, can al­low more ef­fec­tive strate­gis­ing

“You may not be able to re­ha­bil­i­tate the mat­ter 100%, but if I can chip away at 60-70 per cent, am I in a bet­ter po­si­tion? Def­i­nite­ly,” Williams said

Main­te­nance of ex­ist­ing as­sets, like roads, have been over­looked, he said, be­cause of the coun­try’s fi­nan­cial priv­i­leges of the past

“Some of the met­rics we would use to jus­tice how we ac­tu­al­ly main­tain roads and pre­serve the as­set, those just weren’t tak­en in­to con­sid­er­a­tion. So, I would say that is a big part of the rea­son why we are here,” he said

“There was nev­er re­al­ly any pres­sure to jus­ti­fy the de­vel­op­ment or ex­pan­sion of the par­tic­u­lar net­work or main­te­nance of the as­set through stat­ed poli­cies and strate­gies,” Williams added

Khan said with a tight­ened purse for State agen­cies, it’s time to try dif­fer­ent things to be able to af­ford road main­te­nance

He sug­gest­ed some­thing late prime Mmin­is­ter Patrick Man­ning put for­ward back in 2010 – toll roads

That is a way the pub­lic pays for the main­te­nance of the road…we have no choice but to look at these mea­sures for rais­ing mon­ey…and to bring pri­vate mon­ey in­to the pub­lic space, in or­der to main­tain our in­fra­struc­ture,” Khan said

He al­so sug­gest­ed that peo­ple al­ready on the gov­ern­ment’s pay­roll, like CEPEP work­ers, be re-trained and re-tooled to do pre­ven­ta­tive road main­te­nance at re­gion­al cor­po­ra­tions

Will the ad­vice of these ex­perts be tak­en in­to con­sid­er­a­tion, or rather, will the coun­try con­tin­ue along the same old road?

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