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VIDEO: Ja gets birthday gift with opening of highway first leg

Motorists get one month free pass on North/South link

BY KARYL WALKER walkerk@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, August 06, 2014    

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THE Linstead to Moneague leg of the North/South link of Highway 2000 was officially opened yesterday, giving the nation a huge 52nd birthday gift that will significantly slash the average two-hour travel time between the capital and the north coast tourism belt.

As of 6:00 am today, motorists can travel for free on the high-speed motorway until September 5, cutting out the narrow, winding and treacherous Mount Rosser route.

Opening the highway during a ceremony at the Treadways toll both yesterday, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller urged local business interests to seize the economic opportunities that will flow from the new development.

“We are expecting new opportunities for tourism. I am urging local entrepreneurs to position themselves for new economic activities to be derived from the new highway,” Simpson Miller said.

The four-lane highway is 19.3 kilometres long and has 11 bridges, a toll plaza, brake checkpoints, and escape lanes.

It will now take approximately 18 minutes to cover the journey which would previously take anywhere over 45 minutes on the Mount Rosser route, which was not designed to accommodate large trucks and trailers that traverse the hilly terrain daily.

After September 5, it will cost motorists $200 for sedans, $420 for sport utility vehicles, and $1,000 for trucks and large units in toll fees to use the highway.

Managing director of the National Road Operating and Constructing Company (NROCC), said there were plans to construct a rest stop along the highway and relocate 50 of the vendors from the popular Faith’s Pen food stop who have expressed concern that their livelihood would be severely affected as fewer motorists would be using the Mount Rosser route.

The project was started during the previous People’s National Party Administration by French firm Bouygues, which detected geotechnical problems with the terrain composed of unstable limestone and shale material.

With the change of Government in 2007 the Jamaica Labour Party Administration, through former works minister Mike Henry, inked a deal with China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) and continued the project.

Yesterday, the unity of purpose displayed by both administrations was hailed by Anderson.

“This project is testimony to the co-operation between the Opposition and the Government. I believe this project will benefit the Jamaican economy, both rural and urban,” he said.

CHEC will reimburse the Jamaican Government US$120 million it forked out to Bouygues over the life of the project.

The entire North/South highway will cost US$730 million and is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2016, Simpson Miller said.

The two other legs to be completed are the first leg from Caymanas to Linstead, which will bypass the Bog Walk Gorge, and the third leg from Moneague to Ocho Rios.

Yesterday, CHEC presented six engineering scholarships to Jamaican students to study at the Honai University in China.

“These scholarships express CHEC’s continued commitment to, and confidence in Jamaica and our way of saying thanks for a wonderful partnership,” regional director for CHEC Americas, Zhongdong Tang, said.

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