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Sinking, cracks lead to closure of Argyle road

Sinking, cracks lead to closure of Argyle road

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THE PORTION OF the Windward Highway at Argyle, which was reconstructed two years ago to circumvent an area which had begun to subside and crack, had to be shut down yesterday afternoon after exhibiting new cracks and signs of sinking in areas.

And, according to chief engineer Brent Bailey, the situation being experienced this time is much worse than what happened in 2014.{{more}}

Speaking to SEARCHLIGHT at Argyle yesterday, Bailey explained that the saturated top layer of sand and silt, on which the road is constructed, is sliding over the surface of the harder second layer underneath.

“At this site we have very sandy silty material, and it’s actually a very deep layer of sand, in excess of 10 metres and as such, that material is sitting on a harder surface.

So once the soil gets saturated, it’s actually sliding over the surface,” he explained.

Furthermore, according to Bailey, what makes this situation worse is the fact that the potential for earth movements extends to a hill above the road.

“It’s actually much worse than the last time, because it extends… all the way up the hill… So that is what we are very concerned about because… it not only cuts off this section of the highway, but it also affects the international airport and this house is also potentially under threat,” Bailey said, pointing to a house nearby.

The house, however, is unoccupied.

The chief engineer noted that the authorities have been aware of the problem for a while now and over the last two weeks, they had begun works to put in subsoil drains to reduce the amount of water in the soil.

“Well we started and then the rains kept coming and it interfered with the IADC’s (International Airport Development Company) ability to do the works. And, as such, the material kept getting heavier and this is why the earth movement has progressed from the original area and has now impacted this realigned section of road.”

In 2014, when the bypass road was constructed, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, who at the time was Minister of Transport and Works, said at a press conference that a wall was to be constructed to hold up the right side of the road. That wall was expected to be designed and constructed within a three-month period and the new road was to be constructed during the time the wall was being built.

However, Bailey explained that a major part of the hold-up was scheduling their works in accordance with the IADC.

“The Ministry of Works has a design in place for the original site. I am actually rethinking it now, whether or not it would even be appropriate to construct there and what solutions we may find to stop the overall slippage, the mass slide…

“…We have to be able to stop the entire mass from moving and as such, the walls that we would have to construct are not the normal rubble reinforced concrete walls, because we would have to go down deep into the soil to get to the hard layer to stop the entire mass from moving.

It’s not as simple as the normal walls we would build throughout the country,” he stated.

Bailey noted that his team is working on solutions to stop the entire mass from slipping off the ledge and onto the airport, the substation and the cargo terminal building.

Minister of Transport and Works Julian Francis, in an address on NBC Radio yesterday, said with the closure of the road, commuters travelling to the country will be diverted through Calder, through Mesopotamia and would exit at Peruvian Vale.

Those persons travelling into Kingstown from the countryside would turn right into Peruvian Vale, travel through Yambou, then to Mesopotamia and exit either at Calliaqua through the Belmont road or back onto the Windward Highway through Calder.

That diversion route is only temporary, as in about two weeks time, a more permanent route through Mt Coke will be made available.

Bailey said in preparation for this new influx of traffic, certain sections of the road will have to be addressed, including the Yambou River bridge crossing and patch works on the Calder main road and the Peruvian Vale section of the Vigie Highway.

The Minister also expressed his deep regret for the inconvenience, but explained that these problems do occur from time to time when there is excessive rain, which SVG has been experiencing since the passage of Tropical Storm Matthew last month.

The new Argyle bypass road was officially opened in 2009, after being built as part of an almost five-year road project which stretched from Fancy to Kingstown. (CM)

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