Letters to the Editor

Do better, NWA, CHEC!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

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Dear Editor,

I am writing to express extreme dissatisfaction and disgust with the National Works Agency (NWA) and its contractor China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), both of which I find derelict in their responsibility to protect the motoring public from physical injury, psychological distress, and damage to their vehicles over the many months they have been working on road expansion projects in the Corporate Area.

I have been noting what I can only describe as wanton disregard and disrespect for the public, particularly from CHEC, along major thoroughfares in the Kingston Metropolitan Area, but I had hoped, particularly following that fatal crash on Constant Spring Road in the vicinity of Hillman Road some weeks ago, that the Government, through the NWA, would have stepped up and demanded better from CHEC in the way of traffic management.

But it only seems to be getting worse.

On any given day, one could be plodding along through a dusty or muddy track, depending on which day of the week the water truck happens by or where the water main broke, only to be greeted by a newly dug trench, or a backhoe swinging overhead as it excavates pounds of dirt from said trench. There might be a sign — an orange-coloured diamond with the word “detour” in the middle, which is tacked onto a wooden square and placed at bumper level right next to the trench. Or there might be red and yellow plastic bumpers and a line of caution tape.

I daresay that is not even nearby enough. Motorists should be notified of the presence of a hazard several hundred metres in advance. Not only is this the right thing to do in ethical terms, it is also the professional thing to do according to international road construction standards.

The dearth of effective signage and the very rare appearance of a “flag person” are not in keeping with those standards, and the Government of Jamaica should demand better from CHEC on behalf of us, the people it claims to represent.

On some occasions, there are no signs at all. Zero! Zilch! Just check in the vicinity of the Forestry Department, where work was not always advancing, but now is; or in the vicinity of Merl Grove High School.

Speaking of Merl Grove, one day a large piece of moulded concrete, part of the structure frequently used in medians, was in the middle of the road! There was no advice for those approaching the area that the hazard lay ahead. I trust no one crashed.

I concede that there are frequent advisories circulated via social and traditional media about traffic changes to be effected the following day, but on the ground on the day there is nobody to direct; no signs. What of those who did not see the notices in the media?

It cannot be that the moment you get up on a hazard — say, a trench across the road, a six-foot deep chasm, or a backhoe scooping up dirt and swinging over the top of moving cars to dump its load in the truck at the rear — is the first time you become aware of its existence. It cannot be!

I expect detractors to launch the pseudo-argument that this is the price we have to pay for so-called development, but I counter that development at the cost of imperiling the lives of thousands of people on the road each day is not a fair or reasonable price.

Concerned motorist


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