The government’s new asphalt plant is expected to start producing for “test runs” for filling potholes this week. (Photo: GIS)

Final diagnostic checks are under way at the government’s long-delayed new asphalt plant, which is expected to start producing asphalt for “test runs” filling potholes this week, according to Public Works Department Director Jeremy Hodge.

Mr. Hodge told Government Information Services on Friday that the plant’s technician arrived in the territory last week to complete the needed checks and to train a PWD team in how to operate and check the facility in the future. Once the plant is up and running, he added, work will get under way to repair the territory’s roads in a “holistic manner.”

Preparatory works have already begun on the road between the J.R. O’Neal Botanic Gardens and the bridge by U.P.’s Cineplex, according to the director.

“So we’re well on our way,” Mr. Hodge said. “That’s just one of the many roads that we plan to address. We’ll be continuously addressing roads through this year going into next year, God’s willing, and we’ll keep moving forward until we address all the roads that we need to in the territory — including of course in the sister islands.”

Drainage works

However, he added that many of the needed roadworks require more than asphalt patching.

“In some areas, the challenge is drainage, and what needs to happen with some of those roads, they will require contracts to go out to address the drainage,” he said.

One such area, he added, is between Paraquita Bay and the Hodges Creek Marina — a project he said the government recently tendered.

“Drainage and everything will be addressed through the issuance of that contract,” he said. “When that contract is finished, it will be a concrete surface, and of course Public Works will follow with the asphalt surface. And that alone will be a major savings for the government.”

The new plant will also help his department respond to new road issues more efficiently, he added.

“I know that there will be a lot of anxiety, but we will get around to all those roads, including your community,” Mr. Hodge said, adding, “We are also in communication with some technicians overseas to work along with our technicians to share expertise on road paving and other techniques.”

Collaborative project

The director thanked the BVI Electricity Corporation and the Department of Information Technology for helping to set up the plant and configure it to be connected to the internet so that any issues can be identified and rectified in the future.

He also invited people who are about to complete their heavy equipment licence or who have an interest in asphalt to sign up with the government’s Registration Apprenticeship Training Employment and Development Programme, known as RATED.

Through that initiative, he said, they can receive training when another team of technicians arrives in the territory.

The delays

Mr. Hodge previously explained the plant’s delays in a press conference on July 27.

The equipment, he said, arrived in the territory in late 2019.

The facility was set to be erected at a quarry, but planners determined that the area was dustier than they would like.

They attempted to find an appropriate new site, but their efforts fell through, Mr. Hodge explained. They eventually determined it would be prudent to keep the plant at the quarry and begin construction to make the site suitable, according to the director.

But that work, he said, was interrupted by the pandemic. Even after construction restarted, Mr. Hodge said shipping delays left crews waiting on specialised electrical components.

“What I’m happy to report today is that we are a lot closer to getting the plant to the stage of commissioning,” he said on July 27.

Asked what strategy is guiding the government’s overall plans to overhaul deteriorating roads, Mr. Hodge said government will focus first on East Endand Sea Cows Bay.

He added that officials will consult with the public when deciding further priorities.

To see Mr. Hodge’s full interview from Friday, go to the “Government of the Virgin Islands” Facebook page.