The China Civil Engineering and Construction Corporation, or CCECC, this week announced the first elements of their ring road rehabilitation project. It’s necessary, but it won’t be pretty. The project’s Operations Manager, Ellie Bowden, was frank in her assessment. “It’s going to be shock and awe”, she said.

Just like the military campaign that brought us the phrase, the five-phase operation will be swift, brutal in some respects, and promises to transform the urban landscape—although in this case, it is expected to be more liveable, not less, when the shock and awe wear off.

The project will be split into five distinct phases. In most, the road will be ripped up, new drainage pipes will be installed, and then the road base will be repaired. The surface material will be ‘milled’—that is, the gravel aggregate and bitumen will be ground up and then mixed with new materials then laid down again in a process called Pulvimix.

Motorists and pedestrians, take heart: New concrete sidewalks are planned for most of the distance between the USP and Korman roundabouts. Hopefully this will put an end to bus drivers cowboying their way up the verges, endangering foot and road traffic alike.

CCECC engineer Ronly Ala spoke with Mark O’Brien and other guests on Wednesday’s Coffee & Controversy show on BUZZ 96 FM. He told the panel that the company intends to complete one sidewalk at a time, ensuring pedestrian accessibility throughout.

Drivers, on the other hand, are going to face lane restrictions, slowdowns and, in some cases, redirection through the Tassiriki neighbourhood. There’s just no avoiding it.

That said, CCECC insists it’s learned from our recent bitter lessons in road works management and road safety. They are planning to do much of their work at night, which will no doubt affect the sleep of more than a few Tassiriki residents, but should improve tempers generally.

Some daytime work will be unavoidable. CCECC’s Ronly Ala assured the Coffee & Controversy panel that they would schedule most of the work outside of peak traffic times, beginning intrusive operations no earlier than 08:30 and finishing in time for the afternoon/evening rush.

The project is scheduled to kick off in June, and will last for approximately six months, with outside estimates stretching as far as eight.

The five-stage Tassiriki project is one part of the broader Ring Road Rehabilitation Project. It also comprises bridge repairs and resurfacing for some parts of the Efate ring road.

The plans outlined in this Daily Post feature are subject to change. With one exception, they’ve been signed off both by CCECC and by Cardno’s engineers. But as anyone who knows anything about road works in Port Vila knows, plans change. There are numerous buried utilities and services that are not well mapped, and in many cases it’s simply not possible to know the exact lay of the land until you’ve dug it up.

Some people will have noticed a new drainage pond already being excavated in the Korman area. This pool will serve to filter runoff from Tassiriki. Rain and storm water will run through the new drain pipes down to the pond, where a nearly metre-thick layer of sand and gravel will sift out impurities and pollutants before they can reach the water table.

An additional run-off pipe will be installed to allow overflow to run straight into the river in cases of extreme rainfall, such as during a cyclone. This isn’t anticipated to cause significant pollution because dirt, petrochemicals and other items will be heavily diluted in such circumstances, and rapidly flowing water spreads the impact much further afield.

The Daily Post has committed to publishing weekly updates on construction progress for the next six months. Notices will be posted at the bottom of page 3, and additional radio and print features will be published as needed.

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