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Commuters stranded amid city traffic chaos

BY RACQUEL PORTER
Observer staff reporter
porterr@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

COMMUTERS were left stranded yesterday as operators of public passenger vehicles were forced to detour to avoid the gridlock in sections of the Corporate Area.

The traffic congestion was caused by the closure of Portia Simpson Miller Square, formerly Three Miles intersection, due to an ongoing road improvement project.

The closure is expected to last for eight months.

When the Jamaica Observer visited sections of the Corporate Area yesterday, pedestrians outpaced motor vehicles in the traffic.

Clutching her three-year-old daughter Khaleesi Walters, Keshona Walters walked briskly along Hagley Park Road, hoping that she would arrive on time for her 8 o'clock appointment at the Bustamante Hospital for Children.

Walters, who resides in St Ann but overnighted in Majesty Gardens, switched Khaleesi from one arm to the next while wiping her sweat-drenched face.

The mother was among scores of students, the working class and motorists who were left frustrated yesterday.

Like the countless congested main roads in the Corporate Area, the alternative routes were just as catastrophic.

“A bare problem! From after six (am) me out here and now is after nine,” a pedestrian standing at a bus stop on Spanish Town Road in the vicinity of Penwood Road told the Observer.

“Everything that do come, come full and the rest not coming here so. Everything detour. Is a lucky thing I have my own business. This bad, man, mi nuh think me can manage this. We have to find some solution 'cause me have to guh early a morning time guh do what I have to do,” the Seaview Gardens resident complained.

The frustration and anxiety experienced by motorists transformed the roads into a verbal war zone yesterday.

However, police officers, who were fewer in number when compared to their presence on the road last week Monday, stood ready to assist motorists at traffic signals. However, none of that helped.

When the Observer team drove through Cockburn Gardens, though the customary rush hour was long past, the congestion on the road told a different story.

The motorists, some of whom were obviously traversing the community for the first time, were assisted by residents who volunteered as 'traffic wardens'.

Prompted by the pile-up of traffic at the intersection of Olympic Way, Morris Avenue and Cling Cling Avenue, Rohan McFarlane said: “The police nah do dem duty so we affi do it fi dem.”

According to McFarlane, there was also traffic congestion in the community on Sunday.

“Me nuh go in from last night. All accident gwaan, see it deh,” McFarlane said, pointing towards fragments of a motor vehicle on the road.

Dane Brown, who was was also giving directions to motorists, explained that although he is not a police officer, he wanted to see the traffic flow freely so he was willing to assist.

Russell Reynolds said, too, that after he dropped his son off at school he observed the chaos and decided to help direct motorists who were unfamiliar with the area to ease their frustration.

Following yesterday's gridlock, the National Works Agency announced that additional changes will be made to vehicular traffic along Hagley Park Road, from the direction of the Waltham Park Road/Hagley Park Road intersection, heading towards Half-Way-Tree.

Manager, Communication and Customer Services at the NWA, Stephen Shaw, said in a release yesterday that based on reviews conducted by engineers and the police, a major source of the delays that were encountered was due to unruly behaviour by some motorists. A decision has therefore been made to restrict movement along Gretna Green Avenue, he said.

According to Shaw, motorists attempted to use Gretna Green Avenue as a bypass to traffic flowing along Hagley Park Road, which in effect contributed to the gridlock experienced by motorists at the Hagley Park Road/Waltham Park Road intersection. Access to Waltham Park Road through the Total Gas Station at the intersection of Waltham Park Road and Gretna Green Avenue will also be restricted. Some motorists also used the road through the gas station as a bypass, he continued.

In addition to that, Shaw said buses operated by the Jamaica Urban Transit Company and franchise operators will be allowed to use Olympic Way and Bay Farm Road to access Spanish Town Road. Openings in the median along Spanish Town Road, between Majesty Gardens and Penwood Road, will also be closed.

Shaw also reminded motorists that Henley Avenue and Penwood Road are available for those wishing to travel towards Half-Way-Tree from Spanish Town Road.