TJH will bid for Montego Bay bypass toll road

TJH will bid for Montego Bay bypass toll road

Already in negotiations for toll rights for May Pen to Williamsfield leg now under construction

BY DURRANT PATE
Observer Business writer

Friday, November 27, 2020

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TransJamaican Highway Limited (TJH), operators of Highway 2000 East-West wing, has formally made known its interest in bidding for the Montego Bay bypass toll road in St James for which construction has been delayed for a year.

Construction of the 15-kilometre toll road, stretching from the Rose Hall main road in the vicinity of the Blue Diamond Shopping Centre on to the Bogue Highway, was supposed to have started next year but has been pushed back to 2022 due to COVID-19. The project is to last for 36 months, at a cost of US$220 million, to be funded by the Government of Jamaica through the National Road Operating and Constructing Company (NROCC).

TJH Non-Executive Director Ivan Anderson told The Caribbean Business Report that the company will definitely be placing a bid to operate the highway when the time comes. Speaking in an interview at the end of the company's annual general meeting (AGM) on Tuesday last at Jamaica Pegasus hotel, Anderson, who is also managing director of NROCC explained that this project is currently in the design phase.

He declared that once construction of the toll road is completed then TJH, like any other interested party, will put in a bid to operate the toll road. “That's where we are with Montego Bay,” explained Anderson as he gave an update on the toll road for the second city.

EXERCISING RIGHT OF FIRST REFUSAL

Regarding the May Pen, Clarendon, to Williamsfield, Manchester, leg of Highway 2000 East-West, Anderson told the AGM that TJH will be exercising its right of first refusal to own and operate the new leg of the highway. This additional leg would add a further 28km (more than 50 per cent) to the existing highway from Mandela Highway in St Catherine to May Pen, Clarendon.

He emphasised that once successful the operations of the new Montego Bay bypass toll road and the extended East-West leg to Williamsfield, Manchester, would provide additional sources of revenue for the toll concessionaire, which has been losing revenues because of dwindling use of the highway due to restrictions brought on by COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

DWINDLING TRAFFIC VOLUMES

Traffic on the highway dipped 16.4 per cent between January and September due to the impact of the pandemic. On average, the highway records a monthly usage of 1.9 million runs, but this fell to 940 thousand during April, due to lockdown measures and closure of sections of St Catherine to contain the virus.

However, traffic pass through recovered in July with usage of 1.7 million traffic runs but this dipped in August and September due to increased lockdown measures and the continued closure of schools. In order to boost its revenue flows, TJH has been holding discussions with a number of private and public sector developers along the highway corridor to facilitate access to the toll road from the new housing developments coming on stream.

These new developments are mostly south of the highway. TJH estimates that some 14 thousand new houses will be constructed in the Bernard Lodge and surrounding areas in St Catherine.

In addition, TJH disclosed plans to set up a second Total gas station in a zone along the Causeway Bridge in Portmore, St Catherine. This would augment the existing gas station at Old Harbour.


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