BASSETERRE – A momentous occasion was witnessed on May 20, 2016 when the newly constructed South-East Peninsula tunnel in St Kitts was opened after years of extensive work.
At a ceremony to mark the event, Ian Patches Liburd, Minister of Infrastructure, highlighted the importance of the new tunnel and explained that it would aid in the protection of lives.
“Sections of the road were built through the hills on the Peninsula and huge boulders, rock fall and mudslides caused by weathering overtime threatened the safety and the lives of motorists and persons who traverse along the route,” said Minister Liburd. “Opening this tunnel is therefore about the protection and security of all those who travel on this South-East Peninsula road.”
Martell Lee, Managing Director of ADeB Consultants Limited, Jamaica, gave an overview of the project and stated that initial planning began some 30 plus years ago. He commented briefly on the overall construction and design of the tunnel.
“The real challenge was in the construction of this project,” he said, while making reference to a consortium of equipment owners. “I think the objective was to ensure that in the process of these designs and construction, apart from involving local labour contractors, was to ensure that there were certain levels of expertise that we should have passed on that would continue to build the [Caribbean] countries fundamentally in terms of the areas of construction.”
Minister Liburd recognized the stakeholders and landowners in the area who provided the use of their lands during the construction process. He apologized to business owners on the Peninsula, taxi drivers and the general public at large who were inconvenienced during the construction. The minister stated however, that the “result is a new, improved and safer roadway”.
He made a public plea for concrete truck drivers to try to avoid spillage of concrete on the roads as it would reduce the lifespan of the road. “We will have a more developed and a more accessible St Kitts road network,” Liburd said. “That, I believe was your vision Sir Kennedy and I am honored and humbled to be part of its fulfillment.” The South-East Peninsula road is officially known as the Kennedy A. Simmonds Highway, named after St Kitts and Nevis’ first Prime Minister Sir Kennedy Simmonds. The project was funded by the Government of St Kitts and Nevis and the work was executed by the National Association of Heavy Equipment Operators Limited. The tunnel is 130 metres or 390 feet in length with a maximum clearance of 22 feet. The opening ceremony was attended by Governor General Sir S.W. Tapley Seaton; Members of the Federal Cabinet; Brenda Boncamper, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Post, Urban Development and Transport; Sir Kennedy Simmonds, who cut the ribbon to symbolize the opening of the tunnel, as well as members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps, officials from Surrey Paving and Aggregate Co. Ltd., invited guests and media.