The once in a generation road transportation and road corridor programme is more than a decade old. The New Providence Road Improvement Project began in the 1990s but did not significantly progress from 2002 to 2007. Restarted under the current Ingraham administration, the programme went into higher gear beginning in 2007.
Geno D’s popular and witty single “Dig Up 2011” captures the mood of many residents of New Providence on the ambitious road works and utilities upgrades on the capital island:
“They doing some serious diggin’.../They stressing out my life, all kinds of dust in my nose, all over my car and my clothes/They say it’s all for my good, but not right now in my neighbourhood.../ Everywhere they diggin’ mornin’, noon and evenin’.../You gat to go north to go south/You gat to go east to go west/Gat to past my house to get home...”
It has also been frustrating for government officials with delays caused by a variety of problems, including the worst than imagined conditions and complexities associated with underground water pipes and various utility conduits.
The communications challenges of such a massive undertaking were underappreciated and more complex than officials initially appreciated. President Obama realized the same about his ambitious reforms of the U.S. health care system, when his narrative of change was undermined by vested interests hell-bent on the status quo.
Mr. Obama also came to appreciate this political reality: Though voters say they want change, in many instances, human beings cum voters can only take so much change at a time. So a president or a prime minister can be cussed out for doing too much and too little at the same time and by the very same people. Human beings are often irrational. Human beings are voters.
Then there is the NIMBY test. NIMBY is an acronym for “not in my back yard" pejoratively applied to opposition by residents of an area or, for example, by users of various roadways who oppose infrastructural projects or upgrades that may inconvenience them.
Historically, NIMBY has especially been applied to transportation improvement projects. It also refers to those who advocate ideas and proposals, for example austerity measures in the national budget such as tax increases or budget cuts, which may more adversely affect others than those making the proposal.
This includes the self-described economic experts and some business people, many who have spoken at length on the road works, whose idea of shared sacrifice does not include much sacrifice on their part.
Leaving Nassau and jetting to Brazil or India or South Africa, the very same complaints about road works one hears daily in the nation’s capital, can be heard in foreign accents in Rio, Mumbai or Cape Town.
Still, despite the enormous frustrations and communications miscues, Geno D captures a lingering hope by frustrated residents: “They say when it’s over things will be better, the roads smoother, no rusty water, but until that day...”
With an extraordinary amount of work completed, residents of New Providence have a better idea of the shape, scope and ambition of the road works minus the reddish-orange cones, diversions and swirls of dust.
Bahamians, like most people, love new things. The opening of the sixed-legged round-a-bout at JFK Drive and the completion of the final stage of the road corridor connecting Carmichael to West Bay Street at the new Saunders Beach, and the diverted West Bay Street at Cable Beach, have thrilled most residents for reasons of convenience and aesthetics.
Drivers are also watching as the new Gateway Road Project takes shape along with the new corridor connecting the new National Stadium to the area adjacent to the new six-legged round-a-bout and to the Tonique Williams Darling Highway.
Then there is the intersection of Marathon Road, Robinson Road and East West Highway, which will take some getting used to as it resembles an intersection one might find in a more modern city. The proposed dual carriageway at Baillou Hill Road near Family Guardian and environs will offer great relief for motorists travelling between north and south.
There is an underappreciated connection linking the road works and utility upgrades in New Providence. Essentially, it is that the quality of roads, sidewalks, access to water, quality of utility conduits, signage and traffic signals will be of uniformly high quality throughout New Providence.
Wealthier, middle class and lower-income Bahamians will enjoy a similar quality of roadways whether they live in Cable Beach, Bain Town, Englerston, Carmichael, Montagu or Marathon.
It seems that in the face of frustration and sometimes fury, that the Ingraham administration was prepared to dig up, dig up, and restore East St., Soldier Rd and Market St and Baillou Hill Rd, Robinson Rd and Prince Charles Drive until they looked like West Bay Street.
When the dust clears, the cones are removed, and the complaints abate, Bahamians will have among the newest and best roads in the Caribbean and clean water with exceptional water pressure. Despite today’s frustrations, most residents of New Providence will in all likelihood agree that the extensive works and dig up, dig up were necessary and long overdue.