It may not be the news local motorists would want to hear, when it comes to the state of Bermuda’s roads, but the original timeline set to complete Belco’s $250 project has been doubled to 2024.

“Now that we are in March of 2023 – it is clear that the original timeline which was set in 2020 of 36 months will be exceeded,” said Public Works Minister Lt Col David Burch.

“No one needs to ask why the delay? Simply put – what was declared in March 2020 – the COVID-19 Pandemic! The timeline essentially will be doubled.

“The BELCO works are anticipated to occur throughout this year into 2024,” he added.

Recapping “multiple previous statements in February 2020, March and November 2022”, in the House of Assembly, he added:

  1. BELCO’s $250 million capital plan, part of which is the major improvements to their underground high voltage system that will serve all their customers into the future with more reliable, safe and cost-effective electricity. This project is expected to last thirty-six (36) months; and
  2. the concurrent Ministry of Public Works initiative under the Water and Wastewater Masterplan that sees the installing of new water and sewage mains and telecommunication conduits in Southside, St David’s and the Town of St George’s

He also noted that in November, he advised that “under these initiatives two (2) of ten (10) projects were completed, four were set to be completed by the end of 2022 – which I am now pleased to say that these have now concluded”.

As a reminder these four projects were –

  1. The Parking layby construction at Mullet Bay Park in St George’s
  2. Conduit Trench Works on Palmetto Road leading into the Railway Trail near the Department of Public Transport entrance in Devonshire
  3. Conduit Trench Works on North Shore Road from Barkers Hill to Store Hill; and
  4. Work to the Bailey’s Bay Dock rock cliff embankment repairs in Hamilton Parish

To date, he said: “As six (6) projects have now concluded, four (4) remain and are on schedule to be completed by the end of this year including, but not limited to, Trench Work on the Middle Road in Southampton from Lighthouse Road to Evans Bay through the roadway and railway trail that will commence in April 2023.”

Based on the sheer “magnitude of this project”, he added:

“In the East it began at the Mullet Bay Road Sub Station to Stokes Point Road – across the water to St David’s Road, along Kindley Field Road to the Airport Sub Station across the water again to Coney Island along the Railway Trail to North Shore Road, up Fractious Street to the Sub Station, then continuing along Fractious to Wilkinson Avenue to Harrington Sound Road Sub Station through Devil’s Hole to Flatts Sub Station then Middle Road to Store Hill down to North Shore Road to Palmetto Road, Parsons Lane in Devonshire and to the Frog Lane Sub Station.

“And, in the West it began at Belmont Sub Station on Middle Road, Warwick to Camp Hill then Lighthouse Hill, Middle Road to Jews Bay. That work has not concluded – it has been paused awaiting the delivery of piping and is expected to restart in April. Trenching will continue along Middle Road and the Railway Trail to the Evans Bay Sub Station. The end of the Western trenching is at George’s Bay Road which has already been completed.

“This trenching works consist of 90,000 feet or 17 miles of trenching…see this is a massive logistical undertaking that has covered virtually the entire Island,” said the Minister.

“The areas that have not been mentioned had their high voltage cables replaced during a previous trenching exercise.

In areas where the trench work has been completed, he said: “All trenches have temporary asphalt reinstated with the exception of the ones that do not require asphalt such as in the shoulders or railway trails.

“We acknowledge that these infrastructure projects have contributed to the (road) issues as the temporary asphalting after trenching work has been uneven…but it’s just meant to be that…temporary. It has never been the intention of the Government to leave our roads in this manner.”

Permanent asphalting has already started in areas where the trenching has been completed.

Ultimately, the Minister said this will lead to smoother roadways.

But not without more digging: “We have been notified by BELCO that as a part of their electrical infrastructure improvements – pull holes will need to be dug every 800 feet which will allow BELCO technicians to access and connect the high voltage cable lines through the newly placed conduits. Simply put – pull holes are 8’ wide by 30’ long holes dug in the road to allow the connection of the cables.

“This process has already started on Middle Road near the Whitney Institute Middle School and will continue along the Eastern route noted above all the way to the National Sports Centre Sub Station. This cable pulling process will continue until September of this year.”

Once the Eastern cable pulls are completed, the process will continue along the Western route to the Evans Bay Sub Station.

“What does this mean? Unfortunately, this means BELCO will again be required to go into the roadways to excavate pull holes across the Island to complete the electrical infrastructure connection,” said Col Burch.

“Fortunately, BELCO did complete the pull hole required works for Fractious Street, Harrington Sound Road, North Shore Rd railway trail, Coney Island, & Kindley Field Park. This allowed for the aforementioned permanent asphalting of the areas.

“However, as BELCO is required to complete the remaining infrastructure works, this delays the Ministry’s permanent asphalting initiative on most of the trenched roadways.

“The BELCO works are anticipated to occur throughout this year into 2024,” he added.

“Once these works conclude – including the temporary asphalting for the pull holes, the Ministry would then be able to continue the permanent asphalting initiative for the relevant locations.

“Although it is important to note that permanent asphalting can only commence approximately 12 months after the ground settling has occurred. This timeframe is ideal as it would allow for smoother layering of the asphalt which ultimately will lead to smoother roadways.

“Therefore, as BELCO completes its required works area by area, the Ministry will follow with permanent paving of the roads.”