JIS News

Solicitor General, Michael Hylton, has said that critical to the government’s victory in the Portmore toll road case, was the court’s acceptance of the Mandela Highway as the most reasonable alternative to the Portmore causeway.
“The claimants had argued that the Minister’s (Robert Pickersgill) designation of this route as a toll road was unlawful because the designation of the Mandela Highway as the alternative route was not a proper designation. They argued that the alternative route was not in the area of the toll road as required by the law. The judge agreed that the designation of the Mandela Highway as an alternative route, was a critical issue in the case,” Mr. Hylton said.
Mr. Hylton was speaking at a press conference held at the Transport and Works Ministry’s Maxfield Avenue offices on July 26, in regard to the ruling, which was handed down by the Judicial Review Court on July 26, on the case brought by the Portmore Citizen’s Advisory Committee.
He pointed out that Justice Gloria Smith could have ruled on a number of other bases. “She could have ruled that the claim was too late – it was very late, the law requires that claims like these to be brought within a certain time. She could have ruled that it was not a totally unreasonable alternative, but she ruled that this was the most reasonable alternative and that when she considered all the various factors that the Minister and NROCC (National Road and Constructing Company) considered in determining what would be a reasonable alternative, she agreed with us that this was the most reasonable alternative available,” he stated.
The Solicitor General noted that the factors that were considered and the material that was placed before the court covered critical issues such as the time and distance it would take from various points in Portmore to various points in Kingston.
The government’s points, Mr. Hylton said, also addressed the environmental impact of the different courses of action and, “very importantly, we dispelled a myth that it was possible to leave the existing road and the existing bridge as the alternative route. One of the things that we satisfied the court about is that physically, that is not possible”.
“After considering all the factors, the judge agreed that the Minister’s choice of the Mandela Highway as the alternative route was the most reasonable choice in all the circumstances. On this basis, the case was dismissed and the court ruled that the actions of NROCC and the Minister were perfectly lawful and that the project can proceed,” he said, noting that the claimants had not given any indication of an intention to appeal, but had a right to do so in a time frame of six weeks.
Mr. Hylton said examples from other jurisdictions were used to make the government’s case. “There are many jurisdictions where toll roads are built without any alternatives at all and some where they are built with a wide range of alternatives. In some cases, the alternative is very close and in some they are very far. We used that to support our argument in that you can’t set down a hard and fast rule; you need a situation where you look at what is reasonable considering the particular geography,” he explained.