The large poui trees, which graced the Churchill Roosevelt Highway, near the Curepe intersection, Valsayn, for many years, were cut to facilitate the construction of a portion of the $221.7 million Curepe Interchange.
Works and Transport Minster Rohan Sinanan said yesterday the aged trees, though beautiful in appearance, also posed a threat to motorists.
“Those trees were a risk and had to be taken down because they were hollow inside,” he told Sunday Newsday.
“So because of the age of the trees they were a risk on the highway because we have had incidents where branches were falling off on the highway. So, it was a safety risk.”
He said once the interchange is completed, more trees would be planted “because the design allows for a lot of greenery.”
Director of Highways Navin Ramsingh recalled an incident, some time ago, in which one of the branches of a tree had fallen on a car.
“Since then, we had gone to the Ministry of Agriculture and they had deemed the trees unsafe. So, I have been working with them to get them to cut it down.
“But then the interchange project was awarded so we said as part of that project we will cut it down.”
Ramsingh, too, said the trees needed to be cut down to facilitate the construction of the interchange.
“So, it was always part of the plan that we would take it down under part of the project. But the intention is that for every one we take down, we will plant more than five all along the highway.”
The felling of the poui trees is the latest move in the Government’s preparations for the proposed interchange project, a portion of which would be constructed on the site of the old Kay Donna cinema.
The cinema, once a popular recreational spot in its heyday, was recently reduced to rubble.
Sinanan, who’s private business is part of the consortium which owned the cinema, said he felt nostalgic about its destruction. “Kay Donna was the first date me and my wife went on. A lot of people would have gone to Kay Donna. That was the place to be.
“It was a family entertainment centre but it is an era that really has passed in the entertainment business.”
He insisted the ministry was not involved in the land acquisition process. “Land acquisition is done by the Ministry of Finance. I do have an interest in the project but in terms of land acquisition, it is done by the Ministry of Finance through the valuation department.”
Sinanan said the land acquisition process, involving 35 parcels and some State land, was ongoing at an estimated cost of $86 million. Sinanan said the project, being undertaken by China Railway Construction Corporation on a design-build model, started officially on January 24 and is expected to be completed by July 24, 2019.
“It dates back to a Cabinet decision in 2007 for the East West corridor traffic alleviation which would have started with the removal of the lights at the Barataria Roundabout.”
The minister said traffic lights were later removed at El Socorro and Grand Bazaar.
“In this phase, we are removing the lights at Curepe to continue all the way up to Arima and later, the new highway from Wallerfield to Sangre Grande.”