LUCEA, Hanover — Negril has been added to the list of western towns where bypass roads will be built to address everything from traffic congestion to flooding.
The announcement was made by minister of state in the Office of the Prime Minister Homer Davis last Friday and it has been welcomed by the resort town’s business community.
“In the not too distant future, the road bypass for Lucea will be a reality — and not only Lucea, I can speak to Hopewell also. We are looking at Hopewell. We are even looking at Negril to put the road more inland. So, there are a lot of things taking place right now,” Davis said. The work, he said, is part of the Government’s vision of making it easier and safer to travel across the country.
President of the Negril Chamber of Commerce Richard Wallace embraced the announcement as proof that the Government has been listening to their appeals. He is confident that the bypass will not turn Negril into a ghost town, a fate that befell Black River in St Elizabeth.
“No, absolutely not. Negril is a destination. People leave wherever they are to come to Negril. We are not a town that people bypass… We will design it in a way that it prospers,” Wallace argued.
However, while he welcomed news of the planned project, he spoke of the importance of balancing environmental protection with economic development.
“Whatever development we propose will have to be examined carefully for the impact it will have on the environment. Whatever proposal to move the road… will have to be looked at in detail and studies done to determine what is the best way forward,” Wallace told the Jamaica Observer.
He was responding to questions about whether he had concerns that the Great Negril Morass, the country’s second largest wetland, would be negatively impacted.
“We have to balance development and ecosystem. There is no point in having a thriving ecosystem and… the people are hungry and we are languishing as a third world country forever. [But] I am a big advocate of the environment because I know that without the ecosystem that we have, we will have no beach and without a beach, all this development will be in vain,” he added.
Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation Matthew Samuda, who has responsibility for the environment, has given his assurance that the project will not impact the Negril Great Morass. He was also among those who toured sections of Lucea last Friday for yet another look at the flood prone areas of the town.
For years, residents have called for the construction of a bypass road for Lucea which is along the heavily travelled route to Negril. Sections of the road are made impassable with heavy rains and traffic snarls that add hours to commute have become the norm. These inconveniences have implications for both locals and visitors to the country.
In 2017, Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett told stakeholders in Negril that the Government was mulling the possibility of constructing bypass roads for the towns of Lucea and Hopewell.
A year later, Prime Minister Andrew Holness made the announcement himself during his sectoral debate presentation in Parliament. Since then, there has not been any noticeable movement on the project. On Friday Davis once again promised action.
“It is a long-term plan that we are looking at as we speak. Possibly in our next visit to this end of the island will be ready to look at an area that will be suitable to have such a bypass. There is no doubt that what is happening in Lucea cannot be allowed to stand for much, much longer and so we have to make the necessary provisions from now,” he said.