By: Paul M Kanneh
As a resident of Matadi, I had to pay routine visit to my elder sister who then lived Gardnersville. Of course, accessing Gardnersville in vehicle requires that one use the Somalia Driver be it from the Freeport or Redlight corridors.
The road nightmare was just intolerable. Sometimes, one has to spend hours in an unprecedented traffic due to the infamous condition of the narrow two lanes road. Tragedies then ranged from the falling of 44ft containers to running into someone’s vehicle.
The feared corridors was not just a nightmare for people traveling in vehicles, but also for residents and pedestrians along the road. Every week, the city would be greeted with report of fatal accidents, resulting to the collapse of a container’s trucks. The potholes were from anywhere between 1000-2000 on the estimated 13 kilometer road. As a commercial hub, delivery of goods and services via Freeport of Monrovia to nearby markets was another horrendous undertaking.
Owners of vehicles frequently plying the road, would visit garage as often as possible to repair their undercarriages. Enroute to my sister one of these days, I saw the operator of a container’s truck struggling for control after dipping into a large potholes just after the Jamaica Road Bridge towards Battery Factor Junction.
As I positioned myself to watch the scene better, the container had fallen on the side of a slowly moving taxi-leading to the injury of several passengers onboard the taxi cap. The conductor (locally referred to as car boy) only identified as Musa was crying for help between the container and the taxi. The accident had left him badly wounded with a broken leg. “O God, I am dying, somebody please help me”, he yelped, as blood oozed from his wounded head and broken leg.
So terrible was that day that, I was unable to do the normal weekend laundry for my sister and her husband. Apparently noticing that I was traumatized by the horrible incident, my sister asked me to take a break on that day. That was way there in 2002, when I was just a teenage, and the memory had never left me until when the Government of Liberia and Japan dedicated the first phase of the once infamous Somalia Drive on Wednesday, May 30, 2018.
The dedication brought smile and further ignited the spirit of development among participants. Built with a special and new design, the Japanese constructed road has being described as the best so far since the reconstruction of Liberia began. It has transformed the road from bad to dignity and to durability. I mean the road’s story has now changed from infamous to famous.
In addition, it has ended over 20 years of travelling difficulties occasioned by jammed traffic, sometimes 2-3 hours just to access either side of the corridor.
“Liberia! Sweet Land Of Liberty; You Will Rise, You Will Shine, You Will Prosper In Africa-Yea The World”, Many Liberians, especially women were heard invoking the famous Marion J. Cassel Gospel song at the dedication ceremony.
Followed by the dedication program was groundbreaking of the phase 2 of the road. Modernization and expansion of Somalia Drive began 3 years ago with the construction of additional two lanes (Phase 1) to accommodate the huge traffic from both end of the freeway.
Phase 2 of the project entails the reconstruction of the existing two lanes which has outlived its usefulness. When completed, the Somalia Driver will be four lanes. The road, which linked two important commercial hubs of Freeport and Redlight has been an area of traffic congestion much to the displeasure of residents of Gardnersville and adjacent communities
Phase 2 of the project will see the construction of combined road furniture including traffic and street lights, and is expected to last for about 36 months upon commencement of earth work.
In his usual action orientated speech, Liberia’s Public Work Minister Mobutu Vlah Nyenpan described the completion of phase 1 of the road project as a significant achievement in their collective quest to rehabilitate, pave and reconstruct roads in the country.
Mr. Nyenpan bragged that, the MPW technical inspection of the work clearly points to the fact that the work is standard, adding, all requirement works have been completed for phase II of the project.
The Government of Liberia and Japan signed a US$50m grant agreement in 2013 for the reconstruction of 13.2KM urban road and the construction of two bridges on the Somalia Drive road corridor. Having considered the significant impact of the road to end users, both governments saw the need for the expansion of the road from existing two lanes to four lanes.
Realizing that the newly constructed additional 2 lanes will be unable to accommodate the huge follow of traffic, the two governments reached an agreement to rehabilitate the existing 2 lanes if the new road must last longer.
And so on Wednesday, March 7, 2018, a three-man high power delegation of the Government of Liberia represented by Public Works Minister Mobutu Vlah Nyenpan, Deputy Minister for Technical Services Claude Langley and Project Engineer Deena Morgan left Liberia to participate in the bidding process for phase 2 of the Somalia Drive.
A dispatch from Tokyo then quotes Public Works’ Minister Mobutu Nyenpan as saying the commencement of phase 2 of the project is indicative of the cordial relations subsisting between the two countries.
“The opening of bid for the commencement of phase 2 of Somalia Driver road project is indicative of the numerous contribution of the government and people of Japan”, Minister Nyenpan is quoted as saying.
According to a dispatch, the Minister expressed thanks and appreciation to the government and people of Japan for their immense contribution toward Liberia’s recovery process.
Immediately following the Public Works’ delegation’s return, officials of the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Public Works and its Japanese counterparts on Friday, May 4, 2018 kicked off a Pre-Construction Quality Control (CQC) Meeting aimed at jumpstarting physical work on Phase 2 of Somalia Drive in Monrovia
The meeting took place in the large conference room of the Ministry of Public works, and was attended by officials of the Ministry, Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC), representatives from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Katahira & Engineers International (KEI-Consultant) and Dai Nippon Construction (DNC-Contractor).