Setting The Pace For Economic Prosperity

If a nation does not invest in building good roads it ‘pays’ in another way by constraining the ability of the private sector to build the wealth of the nation.
23 May 2015 08:15
Setting The Pace For Economic Prosperity
Works on Nadi fourlane project continues.

If a nation does not invest in building good roads it ‘pays’ in another way by constraining the ability of the private sector to build the wealth of the nation.

Fiji Roads Authority have set the pace for rescuing a backlog of 20 to 30 years of deferred maintenance.

This is work that should have been done in the past but wasn’t – for a variety of reasons. We are now in year three of a 10 year journey of recovery.

Government heard the cries and created FRA to answer the call. The massive investments into transport infrastructure shows we understand the problems that people and businesses are living with every day.

Just as you cannot sustain all your needs for a lifetime with one pay packet neither can government (through FRA) do all it needs to do in a single year.

Just as you plan and prioritise your expenses according to what is affordable, so too does FRA plan and prioritise work programmes.

And as the wise amongst you make provision for unexpected surprises and calamities that can befalls us all, FRA also makes provision for dealing with unexpected events and the effects of natural disasters.

Cyclone Evan in 2012 wreaked havoc on our network. As a result we have had to rebuild the Yasawa-I-Rara jetty and rebuild and reintroduce some form of resiliency to roads that were damaged up in the Namosi and Naitasiri highlands.

The newly-rebuilt Yasawa- I-Rara jetty is expected to reopen soon. The key point here is that we ‘build back better’.

In all construction of new of roads, bridges or jetties we try as much as possible to future proof against climate change, and to build in better resilience for the inevitable extreme weather events our infrastructure must cope with.


Design concept

The planning and design phase of an infrastructure project is critical.

Sufficient time and effort put in at the early planning stages can save considerable sums of money not only in construction but more importantly in how much the asset will cost us to maintain over its whole life.

“Design” takes into account the environment the asset will sit in, how the asset will look, the life cycle of the asset and from a quantitative point, the amount of materials and cost of bringing this design to life and maintaining over the whole of its life.

The purpose of the asset is the social benefit people will get from using it and the economic activity it could generate.

An example is the Rakiraki Bridge currently under construction and expected to reopen in the third quarter of 2015.

This bridge was originally intended to be built in 2013 but there was an intervention by FRA to review the design because what was originally proposed would not have been the optimal long term solution.

It would have had significant maintenance issues and would have been prone to flooding and damage during flood events.

So whilst we could have built a replacement that looked just like the old bridge, a combination of ‘building back better’ and delivering best value for the whole of life of the asset, means the delay to get it right was the right course of action.

This is despite the inconvenience over the short term.

Shared vision- cohesive system

We share road space so we must share a common vision with those that use the roads and I shared this same message with the Fiji Bus Operators Association.

Increasingly the demand for more road space to accommodate the exponential growth of vehicles on our roads is a motivating factor for all stakeholders to plan ahead now to increase capacity.

Some of our road widening projects should wrap up by this year but we need to look beyond that and see what else might be done to improve our transportation system.

Take for example  10 people that used to catch the bus to work  2 years ago now own vehicles which means that there are 10 more cars on that same route now than  2 years ago.

– Neil Cook is the CEO of the Fiji Roads Authority. This is his regular column which will be published by the Fiji Sun on Saturdays.


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