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JIS News

The Ministry of Transport and Works is taking an innovative approach to the further development of the nation’s road network by developing a National Road Master Plan.
“In another six to eight months, we would have developed a National Road Master Plan that really would speak to the integration of our road development and maintenance activities along with environmental considerations, economic development and also population movement across the island,” disclosed Shawn Grey, Director, Corporate Planning and Performance Monitoring at the Ministry.
Mr. Grey, who was speaking at a recent JIS Think Tank, pointed out that the government recognised that “the environment and infrastructure development impacts our ability to maintain a certain standard of roads in the country” and so is putting planning at the forefront of road development.
“It’s not an easy shift,” he said, as “the Road Master Plan and Policy is a difficult shift in terms of how we are doing business now. It is however, one that you would find in many developed countries where road programmes are developed based on a scientific approach in terms of how we maintain and rehabilitate these roads.”
Work on the Road Master Plan, which is one component of the European Union-sponsored Jamaica Road Sector Policy and Road Master Plan project, was started last month (October) and once completed, will offer a choice of four options for dealing with roads – routine maintenance, periodic maintenance, as well as total rehabilitation or reconstruction, based on empirical data.
Mr. Grey informed, that there were 11 proposed strategic policy statements in the Road and Infrastructure Development component of the larger policy document, and what the Road Master Plan sought to do, was to bring that section to life in terms of its implementation over the next 15-20 years.
“Specifically, the Road Master Plan will look at such areas as the maintenance situation for roads and rehabilitation costs, and we used an empirical approach to come up with the matrix to rehabilitate and maintain our roads,” he noted.
In the National Transport Policy, under the road sector component, the plan is to construct and maintain a road system, which serves the transport needs of the people and of the industry.
“We also want to maintain the road network at a level, which preserves the value of the assets; provide a safe road system for all road users; secure a sustainable means of funding road maintenance expenditure; promote greater use of and facilitate the efficient movement of public transport; and encourage and facilitate greater private sector participation in the construction, maintenance and management of the road network,” the Corporate Planning Director explained.
The master plan will also seek to minimise any negative environmental and social impacts resulting from the maintenance of roads and related infrastructure; improve institutional arrangements with other local authorities or road authorities in the development and maintenance of the road network; build the technical knowledge of our contractors and technical staff in relation to road development; improve the infrastructure to meet the needs of the key economic sectors like tourism and agriculture; and, have a formal hazard-mitigation strategy and disaster management contingency plan for the road sector.
“In other words, the Road Master Plan would allow us to recover from disasters a lot quicker when they occur,” Mr. Grey informed.
Once completed, the Road Master Plan will be applied to the entire road network, which currently stands at approximately 25,000 kilometres of main, urban and parochial roads. To this end, the Ministry of Local Government, Community Development and Sports, has an important role to play in the development of this master plan.
Additionally, the development of the Road Master Plan will lead to increased benefits to the country, particularly in the area of road and infrastructure development, Mr. Grey told JIS News.
“Our development partners like the EU will also have greater confidence in how and when they give us funding for development of the road sector because they will see a clear sustainable plan, so they will be willing to invest more,” he added. “In fact, they will be funding a road maintenance programme coming out of the Master Plan,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Alwin Hales, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Works told JIS News that a road conditions survey was currently being done on the local government road network, which includes minor roads and roads in towns and communities. This survey will contribute significantly to the development of the National Road Master Plan.