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‘Illegal’ roads?

BY BALFORD HENRY Observer senior reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, April 17, 2014    

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A NUMBER of roads across Jamaica, despite being operational, are probably not legal as they have not been gazetted since completion.

"A lot of roads have been completed for years now but have never been gazetted, because they do them in bunches and the legislative process is very slow," a road traffic expert, who requested anonymity, told Auto last week.

"Gazetting establishes ownership of the road. And until it is gazetted, it is unclear who is responsible for the maintenance, the signage and so on; whether it is the parish council or the central government," the source said.

Audley Shaw, Member of Parliament for North East Manchester, raised the issue during a recent meeting of the Standing Finance Committee of the House of Representatives, which reviewed the budget for 2014/15.

Shaw told Dr Omar Davies, Minister of Transport, Works and Housing, that he was concerned that motorists in his constituency have been informing him that insurance companies have told them that the expensive Christiana bypass road, which was completed some three years ago, is "illegal".

"I am being told that the insurance companies tell these people that the road is not formally commissioned, so they don't want to deal with them," Shaw said.

"I think you mean that they mean that they have not been gazetted," Dr Davies clarified.

"Whatever it is, but the issue is that it is not formally commissioned or gazetted," Shaw insisted.

Davies promised to look into the issue.

Public Relations officer at the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, Leo McEwan, told Auto yesterday that Dr Janine Dawkins, the Ministry's Chief Technical Director, has confirmed that the Christiana bypass has been gazetted.

McEwan also stated that it was Dr Dawkins' opinion that the late gazetting of the roads should not affect their operations or maintenance. However, the Ministry did not explain how the road would be assigned to either the National Works Agency or a parish council without being approved by the minister as a main road and gazetted.

In the meantime, Auto has learnt that the failure to gazette main roads after completion is one of the primary reasons the roads deteriorate so fast, as no agency has been assigned responsibility. Main roads fall under central government and are maintained by the National Works Agency (NWA), while parochial roads fall under the parish councils, which have the responsibility to maintain them.

The Main Roads Act gives the minister of transport the authority to declare a road as a main road, after which it is gazetted and assigned to the NWA.

The moot point is this: Can issues such as maintenance, boundaries, encroachment, ownership of trees, construction and pipe-laying, gates across the road, as well as the power to impound and destroy trespassing animals, be addressed until the minister gives approval and the roads are gazetted?

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