BY GARFIELD MYERS Editor-at-large South/Central Bureau email@example.com
MANDEVILLE, Manchester - To the untrained eye, the new Christiana bypass looks the finished product, complete with traffic lights at both ends and a daily flow of motorists and pedestrians alike.
However, there has been no word as to when the controversial billion-dollar road, described by some as a "development road" and by others as a "waste" of taxpayers' money, will be formally opened.
A spokesman for the Chinese construction giant, China Harbour, confirmed last week that "the company that I represent has discharged their responsibilities" and that the road was now in the hands of the National Works Agency (NWA) which oversees Jamaica's main road network.
Colin Morrison, NWA senior communications officer, told Jamaica Observer Central that the one-kilometre road was "substantially completed on April 17. It is now going through a maintenance defects liability period and no date has been set for an official opening at this time".
He said the NWA was involved in a process of continuous "checks and double-checks to make sure all's well with the road" for contractors could be held responsible and be made to correct defects discovered in the initial one-year period after the completion of construction.
When contacted on Saturday, Member of Parliament for North East Manchester Audley Shaw conceded that the formal road opening should await certification from the NWA to ensure that the road "is ready and everything is in place".
However, he expressed anxiety for a time frame for the opening. Twice, Shaw said, he wrote to Transport and Works Minister Dr Omar Davies on the matter but has received no response.
Against that backdrop, Shaw said: "I am detecting a reluctance on the part of the minister to have a formal opening of the road."
Efforts to reach Davies for a comment prior to going to press failed.
Shaw said that once he was assured the NWA had passed the road, he would be prepared to organise an official opening should the Government decline to participate. "As member of parliament I have that right," he said.
In the build-up to last December's parliamentary elections, People's National Party spokesmen, including Davies, objected strongly to the Christiana bypass, saying the money could have been better spent.
Shaw, who was minister of finance in the Jamaica Labour Party Government when the road was designed and construction started as part of the Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme, led the way in insisting it would trigger development in and around Christiana and northern Manchester, as well as south Trelawny.
On Saturday, Shaw voiced concern that an unpaved access road adjacent to an abattoir which was closed last year to facilitate construction of the road would prevent reopening of the meat facility because of a dust nuisance.
"Whether it's China Harbour or the NWA, somebody needs to pave that road," the MP said.
Shaw's political opponent in North East Manchester, businessman Val Wint, who represented the PNP in the December elections, sees a need for additional pedestrian crossings, "if not overpasses", to facilitate schoolchildren in particular. "As the situation now stands, we have schoolchildren just running across the road," he said.
There are also lingering concerns from landowners who have not yet been paid for property sold to the Government to facilitate the bypass. But Shaw said that payment delays were largely the result of "land papers not in order".
In some cases, there was uncertainty regarding ownership of particular parcels of land handed down through generations. Some parcels were also without registered titles, Shaw said.