After Tropical Storm Erika made landfall in August of 2015, the transportation infrastructure of Dominica was devastated. Prime Minister Skerrit stated that the storm set Dominica’s development progress back more than 20 years, leaving hundreds of homes destroyed with over half of the roads and bridges partially or completely damaged. Following Erika, Dominica’s government has placed a major focus on documentation and preparation for future natural disasters.
The goal of the transportation infrastructure team is to research and gather a complete understanding of issues with the transportation network in Dominica to improve safety and security for its citizens. Most of Dominica’s infrastructure dates back more than 50 years when roads and bridges were constructed with lesser standards and minimal understanding of the underlying composition of the ground they were constructed on. It has been noted that subsurface irregularities, flooding and washouts, as well as slumping and landslides beneath existing structures, contribute to the majority of the issues found in their roadway systems. This issue was exaggerated by Erika and the fact that Dominica receives significant amounts of rain year-round. These two factors together can oversaturate the already soft soil and weaken its integrity under many roadways.
One of the greatest discoveries the group has made this semester was locating the Dominican Geographic Information System (GIS) repository maintained by the government of Dominica. The map layers found on this website include the location and classification of all rivers and roads located on the island, locations of health clinics and medical data, piers and docks, soil types and areas with high erosion hazard, and various other GIS factors. These layers are being used to help students research and design projects not only concerning transportation infrastructure, but all project groups within ENGAGE. In light of the research conducted this semester, the group has decided to shift focus from identification and research of issues affecting the transportation infrastructure to further understanding potential solutions and their interaction with the Dominican environment. The possible solutions already identified include various geotechnical solutions, further understanding and possible involvement with development bank projects, introducing the safety knowledge provided from an International Road Assessment Program (iRAP) analysis, and compilation of various GIS data, both discovered and collected. To fully perform these tasks, establishing connections with personnel in the Public Works department of Dominica is a top priority. Ultimately, the group will present plans for more widespread data collection, analysis, and disaster resilient engineering to the government of Dominica to improve the overall transportation safety and long term sustainability of infrastructure throughout the country.