MONTEGO BAY, St James — Prime Minister Andrew Holness has underscored that a crucial component of the US$274-million Montego Bay perimeter road project, which in now under way, is a drainage study which will inform the construction of infrastructure to insulate the resort city from massive flooding experienced in recent years following heavy rain.
In 2022 a woman and her grandchild were washed away by raging flood waters near Westgate in Montego Bay, St James.
Also still fresh in the memories of many is the 2005 heavy rainfall which left several residents flooded out of their homes and scores of business operators counting their losses after the North Gully, for the second time in 10 days, overflowed its banks, dumping tonnes of debris and millions of gallons of water in the city.
The heavy rainfall also resulted in the flooding of the Flanker and Rose Hall main roads, which were, for several hours, rendered impassable to vehicular traffic.
“We have invested resources to do a drainage study for the Montego Bay area. That’s been long overdue. So we are doing some drainage that is directly related to the bypass road and Long Hill. But that is not going to be enough,” Holness said at the official opening ceremony for the US$15-million Barnett Business Centre that was undertaken by Montego Bay businessman Mark Kerr-Jarrett.
“There are several rivers and drains and gullies and several areas that flood when it rains heavily, and sometimes it would appear to me that every two years you have a heavy phenomenal rain event that floods out the entire [city]. All of that is going to be studied and once the study is done, then we have to programme the infrastructure investment to put in the drains, train the rivers, build the culverts and gullies so that as we make these kinds of investments, we lower the risk of them being affected by natural disasters specifically,” the prime minister added.
He reminded the guests that the Montego Bay perimeter road project will also address traffic woes experienced by motorists on Long Hill where a mini bus recently ran over a ravine leaving one passenger dead.
“The Montego Bay perimeter will include the road itself but, more importantly… it will include the Long Hill bypass. It will be an entirely new alignment and a far better road surface to drive on. It will just open up new opportunities,” Holness promised.
“It will include an upgrade of Barnett Street and West Green Avenue,” he added.
He used the opportunity to highlight the country’s fiscal stability which has resulted in the Government’s ability to finance the multi-million-dollar project, something, he argued, was impossible a decade ago.
“You know what is so good about this roadwork, it is all being financed out of the budget of Jamaica. So my presentation to you here today is that there is a plan, the master plan; I am a mere instrument in that plan; we are all instruments in that plan. But we all need to understand what the plan is. The plan is to maintain our economic stability and your role in it is to be pro-social, support institutions, abide by the law, be innovative and creative. And those amongst you who can be entrepreneurs use your entrepreneurial ability. But everyone must increase their productivity,” he urged.
“DPM [Deputy Prime Minister Dr Horace] Chang will tell you that he has been talking about the Montego Bay perimeter road for more than a decade. It is now happening. Work has actually started,” Holness added.
The project is undertaken by China Harbour Engineering Company under the supervision of National Road Operating and Constructing Company Limited. The prime minister broke ground for the project on July 16, 2022.
“So some of you may have seen the works going on for the bridge in Irwin, starting to clear and do all kinds of work. The box culvert underpass in Irwin that has started; and the box culvert in Cornwall Courts, that has started. And we have even done some ancillary work on Pegga Road — 1.3 kilometres we have resurfaced,” Holness said.
Meanwhile, Kerr-Jarrett, in his address, revealed that the business centre was completed in 18 months.
“We started in 2019, imported all the steel, COVID came, we shut down. Got up and running again in November of 2020 and we were fully tenanted by November 2022,” he said.
The facility offers business process outsourcing space which will generate 2,000 jobs and is expected to generate US$1 million in annual income. The facility is also expected to provide supporting services to surrounding communities of Westgate, Montego Westgate Village, Irwin, Sign, Granville, Retirement, Catherine Hall, and Westgreen. Services include a quick service restaurant, pharmacy, medical offices and labs, a convenience store, courier services, as well as a full service salon and more.