Opinion: Report card for contractors

POSTED: 09/18/11 10:59 PM

We’ve been thinking a lot lately about the report card the Vromi-ministry has in mind for the contractors that build and maintain our roads. The impression has been created that the contractors are delivering a lousy job and that the government intends to get tough on them.

“We are nowhere near what is necessary,” Vromi-Minister Theo Heyliger said in August.

But what is really going on with our roads? Are they so crappy because the contractors don’t know what they are doing? Is the government trimming budgets for road projects to such an extent that it is impossible to build proper roads? Is something else going on?

One thing is certain. If you pay a baker for white bread, don’t expect a healthy multigrain bread to appear on your plate. And if the kitty is empty, don’t expect a contractor to go out and fix the potholes.

The report card the ministry has in mind (and of which we haven’t heard a lot, if anything, anymore since the idea was floated in August, ought to reflect reality. For instance: how much money was available for a particular project, how much of that money went into actual road building, and how the price compares to similar projects elsewhere.

History suggests that money for road building projects tends to end up where it does not belong. Read the Construction Cesspit (De Bouwbeerput) by Joep Dohmen to learn everything there is to know about how things went in the recent past. How they go these days is anybody’s guess.

Corruption and ten percent-deals aside, there are also practical issues that have an impact on the quality of our roads. The main issue is water. If it rains a lot and water has nowhere to go it seeps into the foundation of the road. If this goes on long enough, or often enough, that foundation will turn into a pudding. And when that happens, potholes quickly appear.

The current projects that are underway in Middle Region, Dutch Quarter and Cole Bay will therefore in the long run have a positive effect on the quality of the roads. We hear that the road in Middle Region will be good for the next thirty years once the work has been completed. We like to record such observations and check back later (not in 2041, but a bit sooner) whether this is really true.

The potholes that currently decorate the Illidge road, particularly on the piece just after the roundabout with the Zagersgut Road, should not surprise anybody. After heavy rainfall the road turns into a little river and the water has nowhere to go. As long as Vromi does not tackle this situation, potholes will remain part of the driving experience there.

If there is no more money to pay contractors to fix those potholes, isn’t there a little bit of money somewhere to do some emergency repairs? Sounds like a good project for community service.

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