MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Business leaders in this south-central town are concerned over delay in the implementation of a traffic improvement project planned to address long-standing congestion.
Recently the National Works Agency (NWA) said the Greater Mandeville Traffic Improvement System is being affected by constraints in the availability of a specialised team from the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) to relocate utility poles in Mandeville.
“…We have poles to relocate in about seven locations. The JPS has a team that does this type of work, because of the work that we are doing on the St Thomas and Portland sides of the Southern Coastal Highway Improvement programme, we have a serious backlog of poles to be removed on that side,” NWA Communications Manager Stephen Shaw told the Jamaica Observer on November 23.
Chairman of the Manchester Parish Development Committee Anthony Freckleton, president of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce Simone Spence-Johnson and proprietor of Lyn’s Funeral Home, Calvin Lyn, have suggested that a local JPSCo contractor be consulted to relocate the utility poles.
“I am disappointed to hear that the crew being in St Thomas [and] Portland is causing the delay, I would expect that qualified people who are in Manchester could have been contacted to do the work, rather than having us the citizens of Mandeville to be waiting,” Lyn said on Wednesday.
He pointed out that the project needs to be fast-tracked in preparation for the influx of traffic expected in Mandeville when the US$188-million May Pen to Williamsfield leg of Highway 2000 is completed.
“If this traffic project is not completed in time there certainly will be a serious traffic problem in the town of Mandeville. I would implore the powers that be not to wait on this [JPS] team that is engaged in other parishes,” Lyn said.
The highway project — which will reduce travel time between Kingston, Mandeville and points west — was originally scheduled for completion in October 2022.
Freckleton said the projects should have been “synchronised”.
“The highway project is going to make life a lot easier for our motorists here, but we have a situation now where we haven’t even started the one here [traffic management project],” he explained.
“It is very disappointing that after all these years, we are hearing about other areas. We wish St Thomas well, but we need some urgency now. Christmas is coming and I have noticed there is a gradual build-up of traffic over the past two months and [in] Christmas we won’t be able to drive anywhere near the town of Mandeville,” Freckleton added.
He believes that aspects of the traffic management project can be completed without the relocation of utility poles.
“I don’t understand that explanation, because not every location requires JPS to relocate their poles. At the [stakeholders] meeting they had indicated that they would carry out the civil works in such a manner that it would be least inconvenient to the motorists, so you cannot tell me that looking at the scope of work that they couldn’t have started in those areas,” he said.
Among the roads and intersections to be signalised under the $80-million Greater Mandeville Traffic Management System are North Race Course Road to Main Street; North Race Course Road to Caledonia Road; Villa Road to Main Street; South Race Course Road,; Caledonia Road; Park Crescent; Manchester Road; Perth Road; and Greenvale Road.
Freckleton pointed to some roads where he thinks work should start immediately.
“On Caledonia Road itself in the site visits that I have been a part of, we didn’t encounter any poles that needed to be relocated. North Race Course and South Race Course Road that would be impacted, I don’t see any utility posts there to be relocated,” he said.
He said there would be a challenge at the intersection of Villa Road, Main Street and Hargreaves Avenue where utility poles have to be relocated to facilitate the removal of a median.
He suggested that manpower be sought in Mandeville to relocate the poles.
“We have a qualified JPS contractor in our town, Power Services, they can do the job…The cost of relocating the poles must have been factored into the budget,” he said.
“Schedule it and those areas that don’t require any pole relocation start to get that going, so that at least we are not looking at midyear 2023 for the completion of this project,” he added.
Spence-Johnson said there are concerns among the business community that Mandeville’s infrastructure needs to be prioritised.
“We are concerned about it because we would have wanted the projects to be completed soon. I think the suggestion is good to outsource [labour] if there is a challenge…because the time is approaching for the deadline of the highway. Once we have that and people will be coming, you don’t want them to see this beautiful entrance [highway] and when they get here it is [congested],” she said.