A Technical Perspective on Proposed Infrastructure Projects
By Sei Kpeyei
The intent of this article is to provide another technical perspective on the ongoing discussions on some projects that are being initiated by President George M Weah. The Liberian president has instructed various governmental bodies to undertake the building of a new military medical facility, the visioning and transformation of an island to a city center and connecting the southeast half of the country with a coastal highway.
The focus of this technical perspective is to provide more information on the discussion; the information is centered on the challenges and issues that should be considered on these three signature projects; these issues are proffered through a professional lens of thirty years of education and experience in managing all phases of infrastructure projects.
Case I: The Military Hospital near Edward B. Kesselly Military Installation (EBK).
The planning, design and construction of a state of the military hospital would need a feasibility study, preliminary design, final design, and construction. Further, a master plan for operation and maintenance of the facility must accompanied the finished project. The feasibility study should, at minimum, include a location analysis and traffic study. During a location analysis and traffic study, issues pertaining to accessing the facility would be examined. Here is one of the many scenarios that location analysis would have to look at: a full-scale military exercise that results in injuries to military personnel, who need immediate trauma care at the hospital via aerial medical transport, could also be simulated to prepare for future occurrence.
Many other scenarios could be run to ensure that the facility meets current and future use. Due to the proximity of EBK to the ocean, there may be need for an analysis that explores potential flooding and ocean effect: consideration for the selection of suitable materials for the design (preliminary and final) of the structure and foundation may be conducted.
Case II: The Bali Island City Center Project
The planning, design and construction of a new city center on the island as envisioned would be similar to a reclamation project. Here, the surrounding soil would be sampled and tested and the requisite remediation process established: various geotechnical techniques like the processes undertaken for Dubai’s Palm Islands or Japan’s Kansai International Airport may be implemented. In each of those projects, there were substantial geotechnical investigations conducted on the bearing capacities of the ground, potential drainage issues and ocean patterns (daily tides and potential catastrophic weather events). For the Bali Island Project, there would need to be consideration for impact to the surrounding ecosystems, access and connectivity to the island and mitigation of potential life and safety issues such as evacuation for security or weather
Case III: The Coastal Highway Connecting Southeast Liberia
The planning, design and construction of the proposed all-weather route to the southeast would be visionary and monumental task when compared with the Red Light to Ganta Highway. The Red Light to Ganta Highway was constructed on mostly existing alignment without expansion of the two-lane north-south carriageway. The proposed coastal highway will mostly run east-west and parallel to the Atlantic Ocean. While the Red Light to Ganta Highway was a reconstruction project, the coastal highway would be “new location” facility. From experience new location facility often cost three to four times more than existing reconstruction in rural setting. There would be need for new river or stream crossings (bridges) with consideration for navigable river traffic (boats and barges). When analyzing alternate routes for the coastal highway, there should be consideration given to the impact of the facility on area ecosystems, tourism sites and cultural lands.
President George Weah has laid out monumental visions in the infrastructural sector: a new military hospital, a new city center on an island, and a new coastal highway. The achievement of these visions is possible if some of the challenges and issues that were listed are considered in the planning, design and construction of those projects. Of course, these visions come with price tags that must compete with other needs in the budgetary space. Already, the 2017-2018 budget included $31 Million expenditure for debt services. Future budget would have to consider the potential added cost in excess of $1.3 Billion (new location cost of $1.8 Million per lane-mile, 720 lane-mile: 2-lane carriageway) for the new coastal highway. The new highway would likely result in additional debt services of $65 Million (assuming zero interest and twenty-year loan term) per budget cycle. This is another technical perspective to the discussion on the national infrastructure program under the pro-poor agenda.
Sei Kpeyei is a structural engineer with graduate education and work experience of over thirty years in managing infrastructural program planning (feasibility studies), program development (design of horizontal and vertical structures) and program delivery (construction, operation, and maintenance).