After years of trenching on the island’s roads by various service providers that was uncoordinated, the Minister of Public Works has announced plans “to coordinate road trenching and remediation works with all the entities involved” simultaneously.

In a Ministerial Statement delivered in the House on Friday, Lieutenant Colonel David Burch told MPs that a new policy “of enforcing the issuance of trenching permits and requiring the proper reinstatement of roads following those works” will be implemented.

“For many years, various service providers at one time or another, have on their own carried out road trenching works to install or repair equipment under the public roads – often times without much regard for the landowner – the Ministry of Public Works or indeed road users,” he said.

“In an effort to address this issue the Ministry implemented a policy of enforcing the issuance of trenching permits and requiring the proper reinstatement of roads following those works. Concurrently, we began discussions with Belco, as the primary utility in this space, to explore ways in which we all could better plan for these types of works.

“Once we had a working plan – other service providers were included in the discussions. The result of those discussions was an agreement to collaborate and jointly plan for these works and effective January 1st, a coordinated approach to road trenching going forward was put into effect.

The new policy was implemented “just over a year ago – in an effort to address this issue”, he added.

“These discussions were timely as Belco’s need to carry out major improvements to their underground network over the next three years, provided the opportunity to coordinate these efforts to carry out island-wide trenching and ensure that all the necessary entities were prepared and ready to install their underground equipment at the same time.

“During the last 100 years, BELCO has installed hundreds of miles of overhead, underground and even undersea cables connecting homes and businesses across the island. As power needs and technology progressed, this grid infrastructure has been upgraded and replaced. However, there are parts of the grid that are now over 60 years old and in need of replacement.

“As part of BELCO’s $250 million capital plan, they are making major improvements to their grid that will serve all their customers into the future with more reliable, safe and cost-effective electricity,” said the Minister.

“Part of this grid upgrade, will require trenching along public roads to lay cable underground. This project is expected to last 36 months.

“It began earlier this month in the east end trenching from the sub- station at the LF Wade International Airport to Mullet Bay in St George’s. The plan is to complete the east end within the next year and a half and the west end in the following year.

“Provision is also being made during these works to install additional piping and infrastructure for future expansion or replacement needs.

“These works will also have the added benefit of further stimulating our economy.”

The Minister explained: “Due to the size and scope of the Belco project, completing the work will involve private sector contractors being brought on which will in turn create jobs and work for other sectors of our economy.

“I’m sure all will agree that this is good news – however, as is the nature of road works, at times there will be traffic disruptions.

“While traffic delays are always an inconvenience, it is an unavoidable but necessary part of this important work,” he said.

“Every effort will be made to give as much advance notice as possible and keep disruptions to a minimum. Both the Ministry and Belco will provide advance notice of each step in this process so that commuters can adjust their travel routes accordingly.

“So, in that vein – starting March 2nd – works will begin on Paynter’s Road to Harrington Sound Road towards Flatts Hill and Ferry Reach Road and Mullet Bay intersection to Stokes Point.

“Public reminders will be broadcast on electronic, via the printed and social media platforms as well as on the Government and Belco websites – and”

Moving forward, he added: “On behalf of the Government of Bermuda, BELCO and all the entities involved in this effort, I apologize in advance for any inconvenience that may be caused and ask for the public’s patience and full cooperation as we carry out these critical infrastructure upgrades. This short-term pain will lead to long term gain.

“Following these works, we will have a far more secure, reliable, state of the art infrastructure for all, and probably most importantly – we foresee almost no need for future road trenching for many years to come.”

The Minister concluded: “I believe that this sacrifice is a small price for us to pay as we work together toward a better Bermuda. Proper planning and collaboration will provide for the minimum disruption for all stakeholders.”