The Government has signed a US$2.7 million contract with American company, Stanley Consultants Inc., for the implementation of a feasibility study and preliminary design for the Southern Coastal Highway Improvement Project.
The study, which is being funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), is expected to be completed in one year. It will assess and design the preferred alignment of the proposed South Coast highway from Port Antonio to Habour View (Phase I) and Mandeville to Negril (Phase II).
Speaking at the contract signing ceremony held on Friday (July 27) at the Whispering Bamboo Cove Resorts in St. Thomas, Minister of Transport, Works and Housing, Dr. the Hon. Omar Davies said the government is committed to making the highway a reality.
"This leg of the highway, from Port Antonio to Kingston as well as one from Negril to Mandeville, represents the last two legs of the project and although (at this point) it's listed as a feasibility study, let me assure you it will be done," he stated.
Dr. Davis pledged that "even as we carry out this study we'll be seeking the financing to carry out the job… as what we are aiming at doing is to provide a highway that is of similar standard to the North Coast Highway, which will open up a range of possibilities."
He noted that the project will also include the mapping of Hope River from Gordon Town to Harbour View. "That is very important because the developments in that river bed can have a significant impact in terms of cutting off Kingston from this side of the country," he remarked.
The Transport and Works Minister said the road works represent tremendous development potential for the eastern parishes, noting that often "those parishes seem to be neglected".
"The potential is amazing in terms of the …development of a wide range of economic sectors, including agriculture, mining and tourism," he stated.
In the meantime, Minister Davies said the government will ensure that all companies contracted to do business in Jamaica recruit young local professionals as part of their operations.
He stated that, "whilst I recognise the international reputation of Stanley Consultants, it's imperative that they systematically bring young Jamaicans into their hierarchy, because we need to build our capacity."
He noted that this has become increasingly important because we "need to encourage young Jamaicans, who are professionally trained, to remain in our country".
For his part, Member of Parliament for Eastern St. Thomas, Dr. Fenton Ferguson said he is "very happy" for the proposed infrastructural development in the eastern parish. "We have waited a long time for this to happen… because I believe that the road to development is the development of roads," he said.
Dr. Ferguson said the proposed road works provide a grand opportunity for the development of a number of industries "that have been sleeping… we also see opportunity for development within the context of tourism, and heritage tourism."
President, Stanley Consultants Inc., Gayle Roberts, gave the assurance that the company will ensure that local engineers and other Jamaican professionals are incorporated into the project.
"We will be bringing in local Jamaican staff as part of the studies and engineering work that we will be doing. We will also be associating with other Jamaican engineering firms because we really want this to be a project that you are all proud of," she remarked.