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Minister of Transport and Works, Robert Pickersgill said last night(March 2) that he was willing to continue discussions with Portmore residents on the proposed toll road.
“Thousands of government workers live in Portmore, therefore we would be foolhardy as a government to be doing anything to disturb the people who are working for the people of Jamaica,” he said.
The Minister was speaking at a community meeting held at the Portmore Heart Academy in St. Catherine, which was attended by hundreds of residents. Highway 2000, of which the Kingston to Portmore toll road will be a part, will be a four to six lane controlled-access, tolled motorway with interchanges and intersections built to international standards. It will eventually connect Kingston with Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. It also involves the construction of a new causeway bridge for which users will be required to pay a toll.
The alternative route is Mandela Highway, but residents at the meeting expressed concern about the flow of traffic on Mandela.
Addressing this concern, Minister Pickersgill said that it was not true to say that government could not improve on the inadequacy of Mandela Highway. “It is not true, citizens of Portmore to say that we cannot improve on it. We can and we will”, he said.
With regards to the roundabout, which was established at the Dyke Road intersection in Portmore, the Minister said that it was in the “interest of Highway 2000 for contractors to have that improved”.
“We’re taking your suggestions on board and something will be done. Because you don’t want to be paying a toll and then when you end the toll, you get caught up in a congestion,” he added.
Minister Pickersgill said that a study of the traffic flow from Portmore to Kingston, which was completed two days ago following instructions from the Prime Minister, was now being analysed. He stated that these findings would impact on the improvement work to take place in having the traffic flow “as smooth as possible”.
Speaking to the benefits to be derived from the construction of the new causeway, which was worth some US$80 million, the Minister said this would open up the development of the municipality and the value of properties would increase.
According to Minister Pickersgill, the Port Authority of Jamaica has acquired the Fort Augusta area where a new terminal will be built at a cost of over US$500 million.
Additionally, he informed that government was currently negotiating with “three of the largest shipping companies in the world” to establish a freezone complex at the Marcus Garvey interchange. “If the bridge remains, those investments will take a longer time to come,” he said.
The main objectives of Highway 2000 are to upgrade Jamaica’s infrastructure, provide economic opportunities for growth and create jobs. Partners in the development are the government; the National Road Operating and Constructing Company Limited (NROCC), which is a state-owned company; TransJamaican Highway Limited (TJH), the developer; Bouygues Travaux Publics Jamaica Branch, the contractor; and Jamaican Infrastructure Operator (JLO), which is responsible for toll collection, highway safety and routine maintenance.
Also at the meeting were Minister of Development and Member of Parliament for South Eastern St. Catherine, Dr. Paul Robertson; State Minister for Transport and Works, Dr. Fenton Ferguson; State Minister for Finance and Planning and Member of Parliament for South St. Catherine, Fitz Jackson; Mayor of Portmore, George Lee and members of the Portmore Citizens Advisory Council and the Portmore Joint Citizens Association.