Letters to the Editor

Poor infrastructure and maintenance of roads

Friday, June 08, 2012    

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Dear Editor,

Many people believe that poor road infrastructure plays a role in the high rate of road accidents in the country. Road accidents are the second leading cause of violent deaths in Jamaica. Last year 303 people perished on Jamaican roads. That's almost one a day.

It is also pertinent to know that while the human factor accounts for the majority of road crashes in Jamaica, accidents caused by poor road structure is equally important, because it has wider effects. It is therefore vital to address the state of road infrastructure in Jamaica, particularly if the country is to achieve any meaningful economic development.

The government must adopt a holistic approach that underscores the need for a road system that guarantees safety, livability and a sense of community. The transport choice of the ruling elite, which tends to be the use of SUVs to navigate poorly maintained roads, reduces the incentives for addressing poor road infrastructure. Moreover, the wrong perception of road use as "poor people issues" militates against adequate and safe road infrastructure in Jamaica.

In spite of the alarming statistics, road construction is yet to consider the impact of new construction on the safety of pedestrians, bicycle and motorbike riders.

School children routinely have to cross dangerous roads to get to school. Drivers have to dodge potholes with regularity and spend a lot of money on alignment and other damage to their vehicles caused by potholes.

Today, the main arteries of our road network are poorly maintained (with hundreds of potholes in Kingston alone), or are grossly inadequate to serve the increasing demand. The dominance of the road network in economic use is not difficult to understand. Roads are ubiquitous, providing virtually total connectivity and offering wide and flexible choices for many users.

Business and commercial travel, social activity, freight transport and private cars all use the same road network. Apart from the more obvious benefits, road construction facilitates the opening up of new areas, and allows a range of areas to participate in the economic activity offered by other areas that come within the range of easy travel. For instance, shortening trip times improves access by those living in the country to city locations, and opens up employment and other business opportunities to them.

A solid, well-maintained road network is just one factor that foreign investors look at when deciding to invest in a country.

Nicholas Sutherland





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