– from Better Hope to BelfieldThe China Railway First Group Company Limited on Tuesday commenced the Road Widening and Improvement Project aimed at widening and improving the stretch of road from Better Hope to Belfield, East Coast Demerara.Works are being undertaken to the tune of US$46,995,941.34 with funding having been sourced through the Export-Import Bank of China and the Government of Guyana.This project, slated to last for two years, will see upgrade of the road include its being widened to four lanes from Better Hope to Annandale, and two lanes thereafter. There will also be extension and reconstruction of bridges, and improvement of the drainage system.Flashback: Finance Minister Winston Jordan and outgoing Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, Zhang Limin, signed the Framework Agreement for the East Coast Road Expansion Project in November 2016The project would also include installation of traffic signals and signs, road markings, sidewalks, and street lighting. Upon the project’s completion, road users will benefit from an upgraded roadway that allows for improved capacity and reduced travel time, better drivability, and safety improvements for motorised and non-motorised traffic.The contract for the East Coast Demerara Road Widening Project was signed in 2013/2014 by the former administration, but it was not clearly laid out, which led to various issues in having the loan agreement inked. This caused a significant increase in consultation fees, according to the Public Infrastructure Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Geoffrey Vaughn.He noted that, because of the delay, United States-based Sheladia Associates Consultancy firm increased its fee from US$1.9 million to US$2.3 million.Last November, Government and the People’s Republic of China inked a US$45.5million concessional loan for the completion of widening and other improvement of the road between Better Hope and Belfield on the East Coast of Demerara. Guyana has contributed $2.7 billion towards the project.Finance Minister Winston Jordan and former Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, Zhang Limin, inked the agreement. Works, including sand filling and removal of utilities, have already been done, ensuring that the project would not be delayed like the West Coast Expansion Project and the East Bank Demerara Road Improvement project.The project is also expected to enhance local and inter-regional trade, since a significant part of Guyana’s economic activities rely on this thoroughfare.