Wait-and-see over toll rates as new leg of Highway 2000 opens

MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Some motorists remain undecided on whether they will use the new toll road on the May Pen to Williamsfield leg of Highway 2000, set to be opened today, as they are concerned over the yet-to-be announced toll fees.

The extension of the highway will significantly reduce travel time from Kingston to Mandeville and other points west, but some motorists are more concerned about the cost.

“I want to hear how much the toll is going to be before I go on it. Anuh the time me a look pon, a the money. The highway good for when you have your private car like you are going to the airport, but for everyday travel if the toll is high it nuh mek sense; it would better to take the old road because this would be the third toll between Mandeville and Kingston,” a public passenger vehicle (PPV) operator told the Jamaica Observer on Tuesday.

The PPV operator said he is eager to know what the toll fee for the May Pen to Williamsfield leg will be.

“We don’t know how much money to go on it, so we have to wait and see. Suppose the toll is $300 a nuh nutten; me can absorb that. But if it is $800 we can’t afford that,” said the operator who requested anonymity.

Another motorist, who identified himself as Roland, said although he welcomes the opening of the toll to bypass narrow winding roads in Porus he hopes the toll fee is manageable.

“I wouldn’t miss having to go through Porus, but with gas prices climbing and the new toll opening, if the fee is exorbitant I will stick to the old road until I get to May Pen and join there,” he said.

Another bus operator said with the new toll opening he wants to see a fare increase up from $550 from Mandeville to Kingston.

“The fare from Mandeville to Kingston is low. You have to pay $990 at Vineyard and $350 at the first toll (May Pen) and the last part now (to Williamsfield),” he said in reference to his class two vehicle.

“We need an increase in the fare that is the bottom line now as it stands,” added the operator.

However, some motorists are focused on the reduced travel time, between May Pen and Williamsfield (near Mandeville) expected to be reduced to below 15 minutes, over the worry of what the toll fee will be.

“The opening is overdue because I want to test it out and see how it stay and see the time it takes me to travel from Mandeville to Kingston,” said Jangles, a school bus driver.

“I have a whole heap of school trips coming up to go into Kingston and with the congestion in Porus and traffic on the old road, time catch up on us, so we are glad for the highway,” he added.

President of Transport Operators Development and Sustainable Services Egeton Newman, while optimistic about the highway opening, said it is important that there be a balance in PPV operators using the toll versus the old road.

“The highway is a plus for transport operators, less wear and tear, less travel time for the commuting, so it is a plus to the sector,” he said.

“I would not recommend that all the buses use the highway because our clients are not on the highway and need to get to their various places. We have to have a balance where some operators are allowed to use the highway while some are allowed to use the other route,” he said.

He pointed out that interested PPV operators will have to apply to the Transport Authority to amend their road licences to utilise the toll road.

“I would urge public passenger vehicle operators to ensure that their licences are amended to use the new toll road, because if they [use the toll] without going to the Transport Authority and make the amendment then they can be in serious trouble,” he said.

“It is not going to be too easy for them to do, but still make the checks and see what will be the determination of the Transport Authority,” added Newman.

Stephen Edwards, managing director at the National Road Operating & Constructing Company (NROCC) — which is responsible for overseeing the design, construction and maintenance of Jamaica’s highways — had told the Jamaica Observer recently that NROCC and TransJamaican Highway (TJH) were discussing the operations of the toll, including fees.

“The details about the opening of the highway will be shared as soon as they are finalised,” he told the Observer via e-mail.

“NROCC and TransJamaican Highway Limited are currently engaged in discussions. The details will be made public as soon as possible,” he added.

Edwards was responding to questions posed by the Observer regarding the progress of discussions for an agreement between NROCC and TJH for the operation of the new leg.

The May Pen to Williamsfield highway project was originally scheduled for completion in October 2022. This was then changed to January 2023 and later to March 2023.

The highway project includes the design and construction of approximately 23 kilometres of a four-lane, arterial divided highway on a new alignment and the upgrading of approximately five kilometres of the existing Melrose Hill Bypass to a four-lane, rural, arterial divided highway.