Bog Walk Gorge bypass to open January, CHEC promises
AS of January next year motorists will no longer have to use the dangerous Bog Walk Gorge in St Catherine, and travel time from Kingston to Ocho Rios in St Ann will be cut to less than 50 minutes, down from an approximate one-hour-and-forty-five- minute drive.
China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), builders of the north/south link of Highway 2000, which connects Kingston to the north coast, have promised that by early 2016 the roadway will be open to public use.
"The entire length of the highway, from the top of the hill near the entrance of Caymanas Golf Club [in St Catherine] to Mammee Bay in St Ann is scheduled to be completed by January 2016," Jinfu Zhu, deputy general manager of the North South Highway project, said during a tour of a section of the new route last Thursday.
Already, the roadway -- starting at Mandela Highway, bypassing the Gorge and connecting to the existing Mount Rosser bypass near Banbury in St Catherine -- has been cut, and CHEC officials say that paving of sections will be begin shortly.
Tales of motorists being trapped in the Gorge -- the main connection between the north coast and the country's capital, Kingston -- and of the route being cut off during heavy rainfall should, by then, be a thing of the past.
The alignment of the new highway starts in the vicinity of the Caymanas crossing on Mandela Highway and wends its way right of Caymanas Golf Course through the hills to Angels just outside Spanish Town in St Catherine. An interchange, where motorists can also enter the highway, will be established at Angels.
From Angels, a bypass of the bothersome Bog Walk Gorge sits on the hill above the Rio Cobre and takes the hillside route, gradually descending to Vanity Fair just outside Linstead in St Catherine before linking to the existing Mount Rosser bypass near Treadways.
Last year, the Treadways to Moneague leg, bypassing Mount Rosser, was opened to the public in time for Jamaica's 52nd anniversary of Independence celebration after a long construction delay, and the exit of the original French contractors Bouygues Construction.
CHEC Regional Director Zhongdong Tang hinted then that segments of the highway from Spanish Town to Linstead and Moneague to Ocho Rios would be completed by February 2016.
The new highway will travel through the communities of Waterloo, Content, Giblatore, and Wakefield in St Catherine and nearby communities in St Ann, including Phoenix Park, Golden Grove, and Davis Town.
With the completion of the section of the roadway from Moneague to Mammee Bay, and the construction of the Bog Walk Gorge bypass, CHEC now places travel time from Kingston to Ocho Rios at 45 minutes of "hassle-free driving" as the north/south link opens.
The massive US$730-million project sees the construction of nine bridges, the most impressive being at Dam Head close to Angels at the start of the bypass to the Bog Walk Gorge, standing some 59 feet high and about 345 feet long.
"We have constructed about 20 overpasses and bridges along the route," said Yuao Yu, CHEC deputy manager of the engineering (Section 1A & B) on the highway project.
"Doing the bridge at Dam Head was very special," added Yuao, whose company is credited with the construction of the two longest sea-crossing bridges in the world -- the 36-kilometre Hangzhou Bridge and the 32-kilometre Shanghai Donghai Bridge -- both in China.
Meanwhile, there will be six toll booths in total along Jamaica's new 67-kilometre north/south link, the first at the south entrance at Mandela Highway. The existing toll booth at Treadways will be dismantled and a new one constructed at the Angels interchange, CHEC officials said. Another toll plaza is planned for Lydford in St Ann, with the other three being at the north entrance in Mammee Bay; Linstead, St Catherine; and Unity Valley in St Ann.
Toll charges have not been established for the new legs. However, existing fees to use the Mount Rosser bypass range from to $200 for class one vehicles to $1,000 for class three.