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Race On To Fix Roads

Race On To Fix Roads
From left: Fijian warrior Lai Vatadroka, tourists Jeff Butler, Aida Butler and Fijian warrior Jope Kalounikaikesu at Orchid Island on October 22, 2017.
September 04
09:47 2014

As the next wet season approaches, Fiji Roads Authority (FRA) work is moving as fast as it can to get the roading network into better shape before the rains come.

“Ask a roading engineer about the top three things that damage roads, and the answer you’ll get is water, water and water,” says Adam Jackson, Maintenance Manager for the FRA’s engineering consultant, MWH Global.

“On sealed roads, the seal becomes brittle over time and loses its water proofing properties. Once roads that are not sealed lose their shape and start retaining water they become much harder to maintain.”

The work happening all over the country has very positive impacts on the day-to-day life of thousands of people.

Many have waited for decades, before the establishment of the Fiji Roads Authority, for roads to be repaired or upgraded. Pre-rainy season works also help the roads perform better and last longer.

So far this year FRA maintenance contracts alone have resealed over 80km of sealed roads, rehabilitated over 12km of sealed road and upgraded over 100km of gravel roads.

There is more to come over the next few months, with a significant amount of work planned in Northern Division and the remainder of the sealed road programme being completed in Central and West.

For some, the solution will mean just a new layer of seal or gravel. However a very large backlog of Fiji’s sealed roads require full rehabilitation – a costly and time consuming process involving re-digging drainage ditches, repairing or replacing culverts, fixing soft spots and re-shaping the road.

Roads can also be repaired  more quickly after storm events. Some roads, however, have issues that can’t be addressed in a matter of months.

An estimated 400km of sealed roads throughout Fiji can no longer be maintained effectively through patching and/or resealing.

Requirements

These roads require the next step up – complete rebuilding. Often, these are programmed behind those that just require a fix. With just 35km a year on the ‘fix’ list, the rebuilds will take some time to get through.

Mr Jackson said the order that roads get prioritised can be a complicated process.

“Many roads have already gone well beyond their serviceable life and are in bad shape,” he said.

“These are usually main roads or roads that are used by high volumes of traffic. We are trying to make sure that the money spent on these roads has a positive impact on the most people possible.”

The impact from floods and cyclones also causes setbacks. Two tropical depressions earlier in the year created $15m of road infrastructure damage, which will take time and resources to repair and rebuild well into 2015.

The FRA approach when recovering from these storm events is to ‘Build Back Better’.

This is to improve the condition, durability and reliability of the road infrastructure so that it lasts longer, is quicker to fix if there is a problem, and can be relied upon by people to get to where they want to go.

Mr Jackson explains that this can mean a lot more than the work that people see happening day to day –but the benefits to the country are longer lasting, too.

“Specialist equipment and services are being brought into Fiji to address some of the issues that previously kept the quality of work at a low level,” Mr Jackson explained.

“The emphasis is on contributing to the long-term development of local talent, skills and businesses. Local workers are being trained in their operation, and learning valuable new skills that will benefit them, the companies they work for, and Fiji’s own self-sufficiency in the future.”

The work is programmed to be substantially complete by the end of October.

 

 

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