- Former Chairman of the National Road Operating and Constructing Company (NROCC), Kingsley Thomas, has said that the construction of Highway 2000 has been a major achievement for Jamaica.
Former Chairman of the National Road Operating and Constructing Company (NROCC), Kingsley Thomas, has said that the construction of Highway 2000 has been a major achievement for Jamaica.
“The project, when it was first announced was.described as a highway in the sky. That project is now firmly on the ground, poised to make a significant contribution to Jamaica,” Mr. Thomas said as he addressed the 14th annual public lecture of the Management Institute for National Development (MIND), held recently at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston.
Speaking on the topic, ‘The toll road.did we get it right?’ Mr. Thomas pointed out that the decisions taken before and during the early stages of construction were based on the highest quality of research, resulting in the best decisions at the time. He noted that where weaknesses have been encountered, corrective measures were being taken.
With regard to the project segments, Mr. Thomas said “it is reasonable to accept that the corridor between Sandy Bay and Mandela Highway was the correct alignment, as, in addition to the majority of it being a green field site, it served to open up new areas, which offer opportunities for significant development in housing, commerce, industry and agriculture”.
He noted further that the importance of the improved link from Portmore to Kingston could not be overemphasised, in terms of improving traffic flows, reducing time, and vehicle operating costs.
Mr. Thomas admitted however, that “there is one thing, which I think we did not get right, and that was the harmonization of the timing of the completion of the Portmore Causeway, with the necessary works to improve access to and from the toll road, especially at Marcus Garvey Drive”.
As it regards financing, Mr. Thomas pointed out that during phase 1, the developers assumed approximately 73 per cent of the total project cost, while the government provided the remaining 27 per cent.
He explained that the amount provided by the government was below the international averages for state support, and so the developer had to seek financing for the project in the beginning. These loans, he said, were obtained from Wachovia Bank at high interest rates.
Since then, he said, a US$269 million loan was secured from Bandes Bank of Venezuela, “which will be used to retire the loan from Wachovia Bank, provide working capital support for NROCC and to provide NROCC’s contribution to the financing of phase 2”.
Speaking to the overall performance of the project, Mr. Thomas stated that based on all indicators, “the project has met the objectives of quality construction based on the specifications under agreement”.
He added that with the exception of the specific and deliberate variations made to the alignment, “it has come in at the initial cost, and completed the various sections in keeping with their schedules”.