Poor road maintenance among crash factors – Phillips

MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Opposition spokesman on Transport and Works Mikael Phillips has agreed with those who say the lack of regular maintenance and inadequate safety measures on the nation’s roads are among factors leading to crashes.

“Our road surfaces and the lack thereof of maintenance definitely contributes to road accidents and road fatalities. I mean if you have a road surface that the markings have been missing after a few years and it has not been replaced,” Phillips reasoned in speaking with the Jamaica Observer late last week.

“We have roads where the furnishings have been damaged and not replaced. We have road surfaces that should last no more than five to 10 years which [are] going 15 to 20 years and once there is rain it is slippery as glass — so the Government has to take a different approach to road maintenance,” added Phillips.

When contacted for a response, minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation Everald Warmington directed the Observer to the Government’s communication arm, the Jamaica Information Service.

Warmington, during his sectoral debate presentation in May, had said that the Government was concerned about the standard of work done by some contractors and that he had discussed the issue with National Works Agency’s (NWA) Chief Executive Officer E G Hunter.

However, Phillips believes that the Government should prioritise the maintenance of existing roads.

“One of the things that I have been emphasising to this Administration is that…the same importance that they put on new road development is the same importance that they have to put on existing road infrastructure. It is our firm belief that we will not be able to do proper road maintenance unless there is a dedicated fund —just as we had the road maintenance fund to maintain our roads consistently and effectively,” he said.

The US$188-million May Pen to Williamsfield leg of Highway 2000 — which when completed will give motorists travelling along the southern section of the country an option to bypass the roads including the narrow Porus main road — is fast advancing to be complete ahead of the March 2023 deadline.

Work is progressing also on the Harbour View to Port Antonio leg of the Southern Coastal Highway Improvement Project, and last month ground was broken for the long-awaited Montego Bay Perimeter Road.

Phillips said the funding allocated for road maintenance is inadequate.

“The Government itself had removed the road maintenance fund, no matter how small it was, and they brought it to the consolidated fund. Hence, what we are getting now is a drop in the bucket to what is needed for road maintenance,” he said.

“What we have now is far from desirable; it is really showing that we are bankrupt in ideas and bankrupt as a country in dealing with our infrastructure,” he added.

Phillips, who is also Member of Parliament for Manchester North Western, has been calling for attention to be placed on a replacement bridge on the Troy to Oxford main road after the structure collapsed last year.

He said the country’s lack of proper road maintenance will cost the island more in the long run.

“By the time this year ends, what it is going to cost because of the lack of maintenance it is going to cost [a lot]; and as [the] National Works Agency CEO said once in a committee meeting, that we need at least a trillion dollars to do proper road maintenance, bringing our road structure up to a desirable standard. We are way off from that and as a country. We need to do better than we are doing right now,”declared Phillips.

— Kasey Williams

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