The traffic problems which have long plagued the town of Old Harbour, St. Catherine, are expected to be significantly reduced with the opening of a new transportation centre.
The multi-million dollar facility, situated on Burke Road, was officially opened during a brief ceremony on Monday (August 10), involving Member of Parliament for South West St. Catherine, which includes Old Harbour, and State Minister for Water and Housing, Hon. Everald Warmington, and His Worship the Mayor of Spanish Town, Dr. Andrew Wheatley.
The facility will be run by the Council and should address traffic congestion problems caused by the ad hoc manner in which taxis operate in the town. It was built by the Spanish Town-based firm, L.C. Construction Limited, at a cost of close to $8 million, and was financed through a special facility provided by the Department of Local Government. Construction took less than three months.
Deputy Superintendent of Roads and Works at the Council, Doyen Johnson, noted that the centre was built on the site of the old Public Works Department (PWD) property, and was being undertaken in two phases. The first involved development of the eastern half of the property, some 1,500 square metres of an overall 3,000 square metres of land space acquired by the St. Catherine Parish Council. The remainder of the property is targeted for expansion at a later date.
State Minister in the Ministry of Water and Housing and Member of Parliament for South West St. Catherine, Hon. Everald Warmington (second right), and President of the Old Harbour Taxi Association, Valerie Virtue (left), listen as His Worship the Mayor of Spanish Town, Dr. Andrew Wheatley (second left), converses with Old Harbour taxi operator, Cornelius Wright, following the official opening of the Old Harbour Transport Centre on Monday (July 10).
“What we have basically done (is to) keep the shell of the building, and renovate and convert it into sanitary conveniences for the park, and the general (citizenry). We found an existing absorption pit, which was a big plus to us, because we didn’t have to go through the process of reconstructing one,” he said.
Mr. Johnson said that more features will be added over the next few weeks, including the installation of lights, commitment for which has been given by the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), and completion of work on the administrative offices by the end of the week.
The Centre will accommodate taxi operators and commuters travelling to communities such as Bartons, Browns Hall and Planters Hall in St. Catherine, and Longsville, Clarendon.
Mr. Johnson also disclosed that the Council is eying property along East Street, Old Harbour, for the development of another Centre to accommodate transport operators plying routes east of the town, including Spanish Town.
New traffic signals, which the National Works Agency (NWA) is in the process of installing, should complement the Centre.
A survey done by the NWA revealed the need for traffic signals in the town’s centre, as a result of which stop lights are to be commissioned at the Darlington Drive/East Street intersection. The town’s clock, a historical landmark, will have to be relocated.
State Minister in the Ministry of Water and Housing and Member of Parliament for South West St. Catherine, Hon. Everald Warmington (left), conversing with His Worship the Mayor of Spanish Town, Dr. Andrew Wheatley, following the official opening of the Old Harbour Transport Centre on Monday (July 10).
“The good thing is that we are going to be moving the clock to the other side of the road,” Mr. Johnson advised.
In a brief address, Mr. Warmington commended the efforts of the Council and other stakeholders. He said that it formed part of a five-year development plan for the town, and urged compliance and co-operation among stakeholders.
“I want to really appeal (for) us to work with the enforcement team and the Parish Council, to use this facility and try not to continue parking in the town itself. They have gone to great lengths to make this available to us, therefore, we shouldn’t have any more congestion,” Mr. Warmington assured the audience.
In endorsing the appeal, Mayor Wheatley warned against unscrupulous individuals intent on preying on taxi operators to extort money from them.
“I am glad that we have the full co-operation of the police to ensure that we deter those elements from coming into the park,” he said.
“One fee must be paid here, and that is to the authorised collecting agency, the St. Catherine Parish Council. So, anybody who doesn’t have an ID that says they work for the St. Catherine Parish Council and (is) collecting money, will be doing so illegally and must be reported to the relevant authorities,” he warned. He also urged the operators to play their part by reporting such incidents.
The centre was welcomed by representatives of the Jamaica Association of Taxi Owners and Operators (JATOO), and the Old Harbour Taxi Association.