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FAIR-WEATHER ROADS

BY BALFORD HENRY
Observer senior reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, May 25, 2018

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CLIMATE change is wreaking havoc on Jamaica's roads and infrastructure, according to a recent 'Vulnerability Assessment' done by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

According to the technical report, which was released in March this year, the country's infrastructure is already affected by weather extremes.

“Damage to roads, bridges and supporting infrastructure such as drains and culverts is commonplace, both as a result of extreme events, as well as outdated design and inadequate maintenance,” said Maria Fernanda Zermoglio and Owen Scott of Chemonics Inc, who conducted the assessment for the USAID.

Their document examines the vulnerability of the transport sector's assets to weather, climate variability and climate change, and identifies locations within the system that currently experience and are likely to experience future negative impacts.

The analysis also sheds light on priority regions and specific vulnerabilities. With the upcoming revision of the National Transport Policy (NTP), USAID said that the assessment aims to offer guidance on how to climate-proof future and current investments in light of a changing and more variable climate.

It says that Jamaica is expected to experience a significant rise in temperatures across all seasons of about 0.85–1.8C by mid-century, and up to 4C by the end of the century. By themselves, increases in temperature can have a significant impact on critical transport sector functions. For example, higher temperatures and increased heat extremes can increase the discomfort for those using public transportation as well as the risk from heat exposure, especially for children and the elderly, and it may require an alteration of maintenance and construction and increase the need for and costs of maintaining adequate cooling in public transportation vehicles.

The most vulnerable roads listed include those in both northern and southern Clarendon, the coastal region of St Elizabeth and the Blue Mountain regions of St Andrew, Portland and St Thomas.

Other vulnerable regions include Hanover, as well as the south coast roads of St Thomas, the north coast roads of St. Mary, and the Junction thoroughfare linking north to south on the eastern end.

Six critical route sections were identified as at risk from climate-induced flooding and rising seas, which can result in delays and loss of service to users.

These include: Newport West to Spanish Town Road, which serves at least 2,900 people daily; Ferry/Hydel to 6 mile terminal; and, Bull Bay to 11 miles, both serving over 7,000 users daily.

Also listed as critical were: Great Circle House to Fairfax Drive, serving over 4,800 people daily; Caymanas to Waterford, serving at least 400 users daily; and Spanish Town to Newport west, which provides service to at least 200 people daily.

Among the recommendations included in the report was to conduct additional assessment(s) on scope of financing needs.

Roads and drainage infrastructure and other transport assets have a design lifetime, after which they may need to be reconstructed to meet the climate and demand realities of the day.

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