JIS News

The Office of the Prime Minister continued to place great emphasis on the construction of Highway 2000 in 2005, one highlight of which was new developments emerging over the construction of the Portmore leg of the Highway.
After viewing a presentation from the operators of Highway 2000, Prime Minister P.J. Patterson charged a team, comprising the National Road Operating and Construction Company (NROCC), TansJamaican Highway Limited and Bouygues, to complete a detailed and comprehensive study on a broad range of issues relating to the Portmore leg of the highway. The report included concerns raised by the residents of Portmore, particularly in relation to the toll charges and the alternative route of the Mandela Highway.
Mr. Patterson gave the instruction at a meeting held at Jamaica House in March to review the interim report requested of the team in January. Among those in attendance at the meeting were, the Minister of Transport and Works, Robert Pickersgill; Minster of Development, Dr. Paul Robertson; Chairman of NROCC, Kingsley Thomas; Dr. Wayne Reid, Managing Director of NROCC and Trevor Jackson, Managing Director of TransJamaican Highway Limited.
The Prime Minister said the future report should include a review of traffic studies conducted by TransJamaican Highway, issues relating to the provision and upgrading of the alternative route via Mandela Highway, and what direct benefits could accrue to the Portmore Municipality and its residents upon completion of the toll road. The team would also continue to examine the possibility of a special toll rate for Portmore residents and the impact this would have on increasing usage of the roadway.
Mr. Patterson reiterated his commitment to continue the dialogue with the residents of Portmore, noting that the government had a responsibility to consider the legitimate concerns of the residents. He said it was expected that both the Government and Bouygues would honour their contractual arrangement, taking into consideration the outcome of the work and the consultations he had ordered.
Then in October, after a tour of the Mandela Highway and the Portmore Causeway, the Prime Minister said TransJamaica might wish to re-examine the provisions that had been made to see if any changes were required to ensure that the toll highway could withstand unusual levels of rainfall, such as those experienced as a result of Hurricane Wilma.
He said the cost to include any such provisions would have to be factored into the final cost of the completion of the road. He said that it made no sense to build a toll highway that would not be accessible when there are heavy rains. The Prime Minister said environmentalists had been involved in every stage of the design of the road. He also defended the technical competence and professionalism of the island’s environmentalists, saying that they were just as good as their counterparts elsewhere in the world.
Mr. Patterson also instructed the Inter-agency Committee working on plans for the development of the corridor along Highway 2000 to undertake further consultations with local authorities and stakeholders in the parishes of St. Catherine and Clarendon, before the final report and recommendations on the development plan were presented to Cabinet.
He said that despite previous consultations with local authorities and stakeholders in the affected parishes and in light of the discussion by the Development Council, further dialogue should be undertaken before the recommendations were finalized. The Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) has been mandated to oversee the follow-up of detailed studies and designs for the implementation of the plan once it receives Cabinet approval.
On December 15, the Prime Minister broke ground for Segment III of the Northern Coastal Highway (Ocho Rios to Port Antonio) at Llanrumney in St. Mary, and gave instructions for the rehabilitation of the roadway from Port Maria to Oracabessa in St. Mary, before any portions of Segment III are completed. Mr. Patterson said the government was preparing a comprehensive plan for the development of lands along the corridor in anticipation of the benefits to be derived from the construction of the roadway. He said it would also facilitate the diversification of the economy of the affected parishes given the projected fallout from the production of sugar cane and bananas.
The Prime Minister pointed out that the plan would specify land use, location of economic enterprises and the protection of the environment. He said that based on the problems being experienced with sugar and bananas in the global marketplace, farmers in the northern section of the island should turn to producing crops to satisfy the demand of an expanding tourist industry. In this regard, Mr. Patterson said the construction of Segment III of the highway was aimed at supporting the growth of agriculture and tourism in order that those sectors could generate additional resources in the shortest possible time.
“It will open up the northeastern section of the country, thereby fostering long-term economic diversification and growth in the tourism sector. Port Antonio, the cradle of Jamaican tourism will become even more attractive as a tourist destination,” the Prime Minister said.
Mr. Patterson noted that despite the challenges and the budgetary constraints which the government faced, it had maintained a strategy focused on the provision of infrastructure development to meet the needs of targeted areas of the economy, while maximizing the impact on growth and development. He said the construction of the Northern Coastal Highway would not only bring physical improvement to the road network in the affected parishes, but would allow for access to utilities, including telecommunications, water and electricity that would result in even further productivity.
Segment III of the Highway covers 96 kilometres of roadway between St. Ann and Portland and is funded jointly by the Government of Jamaica and the European Commission at a cost of 105 million Euros. The project is scheduled for completion in June 2008.
The Prime Minister officially opened the new East Concourse Building at the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay on December 16, in time for the winter tourist season. The new concourse, which was completed ahead of schedule and within budget, forms part of the airport’s US$200 million expansion project and features world class facilities, including new loading bridges and boarding gates, shopping areas and expanded arrival and departure halls.
In his address, Mr. Patterson pointed to the investment boom evident in the Jamaican economy, which he said, was reflected in the rising level of investor confidence, especially by foreign investors. He said Jamaican businesses should move more aggressively and grasp the opportunities that are being created, so as not to be left out. He said the modernization and expansion of the Sangster airport was in keeping with a broader policy directive that identifies infrastructural development as a strategic driver of investment activity necessary for the transformation of the economy. He said the progress at the airport vindicated the government’s position that the modernization of the aviation sector could be achieved by mobilizing private capital to undertake commercial investments beyond the resources that the state could commit.
He said further, that the airport expansion was in keeping with the international standards for global competitiveness given that a high quality of infrastructure development was recognized globally as the second most critical factor that would drive productivity and efficiency levels.
The Prime Minister said the airport modernization programme at the island’s two international airports has positioned the aviation sector as an efficient platform on which the economy could be fully integrated into the global trade system and meet the demands being generated by the expansion in the tourism industry.
In this regard, Mr. Patterson noted that negotiations have been initiated with various countries in South America, including Brazil and Chile, for air service agreements that would facilitate the expansion of air traffic and pave the way for the development of the Montego Bay Logistics Centre.
Phase Two of the Sangster Airport expansion project should commence soon. Work on this second phase will involve the renovation and expansion of the old western concourse, including the construction of new customs halls and baggage claim facilities. It is expected to be completed by July 2008. Plans are also underway for the establishment of a museum at the Sangster Airport to provide travellers with a greater awareness of Jamaica’s cultural heritage.
In November when the Port Authority of Jamaica signed a five-year US$210 Million contract with the Maersk shipping line, for the provision of transshipment services at the Kingston Container Terminal, Mr. Patterson welcomed the partnership, stating that it would not only result in the expansion of the maritime sector but also the economic growth and prosperity of Jamaica.
He said the government would continue to provide significant support to the Port Authority to ensure that it met its requirements under the contract.
The Prime Minister, who participated in the signing ceremony at a function held at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, said the contract was indicative of the tremendous development of the Port of Kingston and the soundness of the vision of the Government in facilitating its development.
He said the maritime sector was identified as one of the clusters for development under the National Industrial Policy, hence the several expansion phases at the port since the construction of the North Terminal in the early 1970s. He expressed confidence that the Port Authority would meet its obligations, given its proven track record of reliability and the offering of professional services to its clients. Mr. Patterson disclosed that Cabinet recently approved a fifth expansion phase which is expected to cost US$200 Million and should more than double the capacity of the port to 3.2 million TEUs.

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