Road ‘safe’ for use

Section of the Palisadoes Road.
Section of the Palisadoes Road.

KINGSTON — Seeking to allay concerns about the stability of the newly rehabilitated Palisadoes Road linking Kingston and Port Royal, the National Works Agency (NWA) said last night that although no seismic assessment was done prior to the work, it was satisfied that sufficient geo-technical tests were undertaken.

“No seismic-type data went into it as far as I know,” corporate communications manager Stephen Shaw said.

“That was not a consideration. That was not part of the preliminaries as far as I know. It’s not the normal thing we do in constructing roads,” he added.

The agency was responding to questions posed by the Jamaica Observer following an interview last week with internationally renown seismologist Dr. Eric Calais and head of the Earthquake Unit at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Dr. Lyndon Brown.

The scientists raised concerns that if the proper seismic studies had not informed the rehabilitation works, the road would likely crumble into the Caribbean Sea in the event of a serious earthquake.

Dr. Calais, who was visiting the island on a seismic exploratory mission to ascertain Jamaica’s preparedness for what experts say is a date with destiny, asked whether “the proper hazard assessments” were done in respect of the Palisadoes Road and whether “mitigation measures against tsunamis and liquefaction measures” have been put in place.

In response, Dr. Brown said that as far as he knew, no seismic study had been done before the works were undertaken.

“More emphasis is placed on storm surges and hurricanes and not on earthquakes. We haven’t been told otherwise and we haven’t been asked the kind of questions that would suggest that we’ve actually done the level of seismic assessment or tsunami assessment, so unless it happened without our knowledge…” he said.

Last night, however, Shaw said the design used in the road works was standard.

“The design that has been used in constructing the road is a standard one used to construct the road to the airport, the airport itself, buildings in downtown Kingston to include that of Digicel and others. In terms of our normal operations, in constructing the road, we would have done geo-technical type work. It is normal,” he said.

Geo-technical tests, according to Shaw, would have checked the soil type and would have taken liquefaction into account, given the sandy composition of the soil. Seismic works would have gone deeper to measure the difference between the ocean floor and the shore as an assessment of the amount of stress on the land.

Dr. Brown said his team has been measuring the strain on the fault line that runs from Haiti, through the Dominican Republic and into Jamaica by GPS for several years and that based on the accumulation of stress they have seen, a magnitude 7 or 7.5 quake is likely for Jamaica.

Further to that, he said sonar mapping in the Kingston Harbour has revealed “rapid change in the depth to the ocean floor close to the road”. (Observer)

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