Since the road is dusty and unsafe for pedestrians and parking cars, old-people are in trouble while moving in the streets.

Unlike her schedule for the first five years, Aynalem Worku now opens her mini-market only in the morning and after working hours in the afternoon.

At the end of last month on a weekday around noon, Ayni Mini-Market, located near Ararat Hotel in Yeka District, was closed.

Joining the grocery retail business seven years ago, the owner of the mini-market used to open the shop early in the morning and close its doors at night. However, this changed in the middle of last year.

Aynalem, who pays 4,000 Br a month for rent, excluding electric and water bills, now opens the supermarket from 7:00am to 10:00am in the morning and 4:00pm to 7:00pm in the afternoon.

Previously, her customers parked their cars at the door of the mini-market. This is not the case now, since they cannot park there because of the unfinished road widening project.

Her shop is located alongside the Ararat-Kotebe road project, which was launched in February 2017 with a budget of 534 million Br and a schedule of being completed in two and a half years.

By now, the road should have been finished; however, at this point only 30pc of the work is currently completed.

Since the road is dusty and unsafe for parking cars, Aynalem's clients are not willing to visit her shop during construction hours. The dust that blows into the shop also damages her grocery items, forcing her to close her shop during day time hours. She also laid off her two employees.

"Now, business is very slow," she said, adding that she is even borrowing money from her husband to pay the shop's rent. “The items on the shelves are getting outdated and spoiled.”

The delayed road project that has hurt Aynalem's business was awarded to two local companies after being split in two. It has a six-kilometre length and a 30m width.

The first contract lot of the project, which extends from Ararat Hotel to Kotebe Metropolitan University with a 3.1Km length, was awarded to Diriba Defersha General Contractor for 273 million Br.  The company was supposed to finish the construction of the road in October 2019.

Tekleberhan Ambaye Construction Plc, another prominent local firm, was awarded the second lot that covers the 2.8Km section between Kotebe College and Kara for 261 million Br.

The project is one of the 40 active road construction projects underway in the city. Beside the Ararat to Kotebe project, several others have been delayed as well.

Multiple factors caused the delay, according to Ferehiwot Debele, operations manager of Diriba Defersha.

The Ararat-Kotebe road project was expected to be finished by now but remains only 30pc complete.

The lengthy process of mobilising the site, using the area as a marketplace by the local community, design revisions, problems with material supply and lack of skilled human resources are the major factors for the delay, according to Ferehiwot.

The contractor also faced an external problem of rights-of-way, the legal right established by usage to pass along a specific route through grounds or property belonging to another.

Tiumay Weldegebriel, communications director at the Addis Abeba City Roads Authority, which completed 22 projects in the last fiscal year and planned to launch 40 new projects this year, shares Ferehiwot's view.

Along with boundary demarcation issues, design revisions and the under-performance of contractors are the general causes of road delays, he says.

"Unless the contractors place their machines and construction equipment on the sites," says Tiumay, "residents do not voluntarily leave the premises."

The same happened with Ararat to Kotebe road.

Because of right-of-way issues, stemming from the work site running through old neighborhoods with elderly residents who do not want to comply, the district office was not able to evacuate the premises until this October, according to Tiumay.

The old road had a 14m width, but the upgrade widened it to 30m. Thus, the road passes over the boundaries of the residents, which has created tension.

There were also debates with Kotebe Metropolitan University, which will lose some part of its land to the road widening.

After settling all these in December, the construction of the road recommenced in September, almost two years after the project kicked off.

Tiumay also attributes the inefficiency of some contractors as a source of project delay. These companies have limitations in handling holes, construction waste and digging trenches, according to him.

"We receive many complaints," he said, "and we write warnings to contractors to correct the issues raised."

The Authority requires the contractors to pave ways to give mobility access to the community, especially in the rainy seasons and sprinkle the roads with water at least twice a day in the sunny seasons to minimise the amount of dust that rises from the construction.

But many have failed to do so, according to the communications director.

The ararat-Kotebe road project was expected to be finished by now but remains only 30pc complete.

In Aynalem's estimation, the contractors that are working on the Ararat to Kotebe road do not sprinkle water on the road, with the dust forcing her to close her shop during the day time.

Cordova Academy, a private primary school found in Nifas Silk Laphto District near Qera, is also a victim of a delayed road project.

For the current academic year, the Academy planned to enroll 800 students, but actually enrolled just 540, according to Mohammed Adem, principal of this branch of Cordova, one of five branches operating under the Academy, which has been in business since 2008.

Students and families are not happy with the hollow ground, ditches which are full of water, and the up and down nature of the land around the gate of the school, according to Mohammed.

"Staff and students faced incidents of mugging because of the conducive environment to criminals offered by the muddled fields and cramped neighborhoods," Mohammed said.

There was a large pond under the cliff located next to the gate of the school, which worried parents. Three weeks ago, city authorities drained the water after repeated complaints, according to the principal.

Cordova is located on the road that extends from Qera Beret to Gofa Mebrat Hail Condominium. The road was awarded to Melcon Construction Plc in 2017 for 214 million Br.

The 30m-wide road project stretches for 2.1Km and was planned to be completed within a year of the contract award, but it has only progressed 40pc.

Melcon Construction Plc recently completed the construction of Alemtsehay Bridge to Winget and has progressed well on the construction of Haile Garment to Jemo square road.

"We've got a good experience of finalising projects on time," said Elias Teka, the general manager of Melcon. "Issues related to rights-of-way caused delays on this particular project."

Electric poles and telecom fibers were not relocated on time, which played a part in causing the delay, according to Elias.

Another challenge was that groups of juveniles from the surrounding area demand 20 Br to 25 Br a cubic metre when trucks load construction materials at a quarry site, Elias added.

"They force us to pay up to 413 Br a vehicle for trucks with a capacity of carrying 16.5 cubic metres of soil and gravel," he told Fortune.

When there are road projects delayed with forceful problems, the city's Roads Authority renews the contractual agreement under the condition that the contractors revise their plans and take emergency measures to complete their work backlog as fast as possible, according to Tiumay.

For the companies that fail to deliver the roads, the Authority takes two measures: taking the contractor to court for punitive damages or terminating the project.

While awarding companies for new projects, the Authority requires contractors to accomplish 75pc of the projects they are already awarded before they get a new one.

Fikadu Gurmessa (PhD), a transport geography lecturer at Addis Abeba University for more than a decade, believes that political will is needed to complete delayed projects.

“It is the determination of the government to take measures against delayed projects that will address the issue,” Fikadu suggests.

Delays bear lots of costs, including the land itself, which is exposed to erosion. It will also affect the mass transport operations that most people use every day, according to Fikadu.

Starting from the next fiscal year, things will not go as usual, according to Tiumay.

For the upcoming projects that will be constructed in the coming three years, the Authority has already identified the projects, according to Tiumay.

"We'll give the data to the city and district officials to prepare all the preconditions ahead of the commencement of any project," Tiumay said.

However, Mohammed, the principal at Cordova, has already become frustrated and lost hope.

"Next year we won't get half of the students, since most of them are too frustrated with the road," he said.

On the other hand, Ferehiwot of Diriba Defersha states that her company is also frustrated with city road projects, due to the disputes over land ownership rights.

"We prefer to work on provincial extended roads, as they are less complicated," she said.

PUBLISHED ON Dec 21,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 1025]

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