Editorial

New Barbican can be template for improving old towns

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

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The new Barbican town which has just emerged out of a $564.7 million (US$4.4 million) road upgrading works, is certainly a far cry from the Barbican Estate of 1755 when hundreds of slaves roamed the property and brewed rum.

Without suggesting that the project, part of the Government's Major Infrastructure Development Project (MIDP), is by any means perfect, we think it can be used as a template for future roadworks.

It will, of course, take some time to determine if all the started benefits of the project have been achieved but, apart from a few reasonable complaints, there is a sense of satisfaction in the community that the new Barbican is welcomed.

When the project was announced last year March, the National Works Agency (NWA) promised, among other things: enhanced pedestrian safety through improved pedestrian facilities and management; reduced vehicle operating costs through an improved road condition; reduced crashes via improved road condition; less driver frustration; reduced travel time via increased speed and reliability; reduced congestion through less crashes; increased capacity; enhanced management and reduced pedestrian/driver interactions.

The town has the look and feel of a modern centre of which Jamaicans can be proud. The Government would be wise to take this approach to all the old towns throughout the length and breadth of the island, as funds allow.

Now that the works have been almost completed — some mopping up work is continuing — the NWA should review the finished product to ensure that it satisfies the various stakeholders who interact with Barbican square.

Indeed, there have been complaints from the disabled community that ramps and approaches to some sidewalks need improvement to allow for independent movement. Pedestrians have also raised concerns about ease or lack of ease of crossing the roadways.

It might also be prudent to work with property owners to improve the appearance of lots and businesses in the area. For example, on the East King's House Road side, there are eyesores like old motor car shells and ramshackle bus stops that rob the new town of some of its beauty.

Practical issues include ease of entrance to some businesses, as is evidenced by many complaints from customers who are having a more difficult time getting to and from these shops and offices.

One business owner can be seen creating a new entrance to his property to facilitate customers, apparently at his own cost. But not everyone will be able to afford to do that.

Barbican Road is located at the centre of several major arterial and collector roadways and, according to the Government, a recent survey showed it facilitates the movement of more than 26,000 vehicles daily, leading to significant traffic congestion and gridlock.

While construction was underway the community suffered much inconvenience, including dust nuisances and delays. It would all have been worth it if the project delivers on a promise of “a corridor that will be able to handle a high volume of traffic in a more efficient and more comfortable manner”.

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