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Modernization plans are in place for the country’s transportation system, particularly in the Corporate Area, the city of Montego Bay and three rural towns, Minister of Transport and Works, Michael Henry, has said.
The Minister was making his presentation in the 2008/09 Sectoral Debate in Gordon House on May 28.
The rural towns earmarked are Ocho Rios, Santa Cruz and May Pen. Montego Bay and Ocho Rios were chosen because of the combined tourism and community transportation needs along the north coast, while Santa Cruz serves the critical breadbasket area of St. Elizabeth, and May Pen sits well in terms of its connectivity with the Highway 2000 network, the railway, and the Vernamfield Aerodrome.
In the Corporate Area, there will be extensive road widening, addition of more bus lane, introduction of high-occupancy (carpooling) lanes, intersection improvements, and real time video monitoring of traffic operations. Also, a long-range priority project is being considered, to establish an elevated, six-lane north to south expressway from Manor Park to downtown Kingston, with interchanges at critical sections of the city.
“These,” Mr. Henry pointed out, “with the exception of the expressway, are all being either implemented or are scheduled for implementation on a short to medium-term agenda. Already, Marcus Garvey Drive and Spanish Town Road are being widened.”
He pointed out that Marcus Garvey Drive is contractually due for completion in August of this year, but it is anticipated that the project will be completed by the end of June, well ahead of schedule.
“This was something I promised the Portmore toll road users to do, to minimize the peak hour traffic build-up off the toll road, before I would increase the toll rate,” the Minister told the House.
The Corporate Area road-widening programme will also include: Hagley Park Road; Washington Boulevard/Dunrobin Avenue; a section of Constant Spring Road; Shortwood Road; Old Hope Road from Cross Roads to Liguanea; and Barbican Road/East Kings House Road/Lady Musgrave Road.
“Supporting this modernization of our roads in the Corporate Area are factors like upgraded traffic signals to facilitate more synchronization and better traffic flow, plus the introduction of real time control of traffic operations through major intersections from a traffic management centre,” the Minister informed, noting that New Kingston’s slew of new high-tech traffic signals are due to come on stream next week.
As part of ongoing infrastructural development, safety features have been upgraded along Segment 2A of the North Coast Highway, between Greenside in Trelawny and Montego Bay. Funding of more than $100 million has been secured to establish the necessary overpasses and underpasses to fully balance the traffic flow and safety needs along the new stretch of dual carriageway.
Giving an update on the North Coast Highway Project, Mr. Henry said that even though Segment 3, from Ocho Rios to Port Antonio, is back on target in terms of the schedule for completion, some deficiencies have had to be dealt with, such as raising a box bridge at Buff Bay, which was being built below sea level.
He informed also that a strip of road has been raised in Orange Bay, which locals claimed was compromised by periodic drainage problems in the area. The overall segment is, however, expected to be completed by April 2009, to qualify for the disbursement of funding from the overseas financiers, the Minister said.
Mr. Henry told the House that the Ministry intended to continue to invest heavily in physical infrastructure “so that our people can have better opportunities to realize their potential through better employment opportunities and increased mobility to grasp these opportunities, while enjoying more comfort on the roads and more security in travel.”