Congestion, accidents down, but speeding increases on Mandela Highway, say police

Observer staff reporter

Sunday, April 21, 2019

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HEAD of Traffic Operations at Ferry Police Station, Sergeant Lloyd Wellington, is reporting low congestion and general free flow of vehicles on the Mandela Highway since its expansion.

“In the morning peak hours, the traffic is still heavy, but there is no congestion. Because of the volume of traffic now using the Mandela Highway, we only have a slight build up heading easterly into Kingston on Washington Boulevard and Spanish Town Road.

The sergeant said that, whereas before, there would be a peak in traffic from 5:30 am to 11:00 am, this window has reduced significantly.

“Now we only have a slight build up of traffic that starts at around 6:00 am and then by 7:00 am you have free flow all the way up to Washington Boulevard and Spanish Town Road. In the evening peak hour now, heading into Portmore, we have a massive build up due to the volume of motorists heading into Portmore,” said Wellington.

He explained that the traffic lights at the Dyke Road intersection in the vicinity of the Ackee Village adds to the build-up.

“If that light could be adjusted to give the traffic coming from Mandela a longer run, this could allow for even better flow of traffic going into Portmore. Maybe if the time could be extended to five minutes to give motorists a longer time to go through the light. Also, information is that the stop light at the turning at Nestle will be removed and that section will be blocked. Once that happens, the traffic will be much smoother,” said the sergeant.

In the meantime, Wellington said that since the expansion of the highway, he has also observed a decrease in the number of collisions in recent weeks.

“In terms of accidents, we have a reduction in the number of rear-end collisions. Before, in one day we would have up to 10 accidents, usually caused by improper lane usage. Now, we are only seeing up to three accidents per day.”

However, he said most of the crashes are caused by motorists driving above the 80 km speed limit. Last Thursday morning, he said, just over 30 tickets were issued to motorists for excessive speeding.

“Now that there are three lanes on the highway, the accidents are as a result of excessive speeding, and these are usually single vehicle accidents. We were doing a speed and spot check operation. We started a little after 7:00 am and by 9:30 am we had issued a total of 31 tickets to motorists driving above the speed limit.

“One motorist was actually ticketed twice. First at six miles for doing 158 kilometres and he was again stopped further down the stretch going at 162 kilometres. His utterance was 'late mi late fi work'. So we basically will be living on that stretch to punish and prosecute the undisciplined and unruly users of the road,” said Wellington, who also expressed concern that motorists, especially taxi and coaster bus operators, have been exceeding the speed limit in what is considered a school and commercial zone.

“Persons should be travelling no more than 15 miles per hour or 30 kilometres on the service road, and yet vehicles are seen travelling at least 100 kilometres or more heading up to Tom Cringle Drive. Since the service road has been paved, a pedal cyclist was hit by a coaster coming from Spanish Town Road heading to Tom Cringle.

“There was extensive damage to the bus and the bicycle, and the cyclist received serious injuries. The bus was taken to the exam depot and the plates were removed for mechanical defects. The driver was charged for driving a defective vehicle and for dangerous driving,” said the sergeant.

As a preventative measure, Wellington asked that speed bumps and a pedestrian crossing be placed on the service road.

“Because the stretch is a school zone and there are other commercial areas around, there must be some form of restriction to prevent collision and fatalities. We are also asking the motorists to drive more cautiously when using the major thoroughfare and maintain the 80 kilometre speed limit,” he said.

The National Works Agency (NWA) has said that culminating works on the highway for April will focus on completing ramps, sidewalks, the installation of guardrails and paving of the overpass bridge.

The agency's Manager of Communication and Customer Services Stephen Shaw told the Jamaica Observer that changes will include the overpass at Ferry being used to access the northern side of the corridor.

“The service road will be in full effect. The traffic signals along the road at Hydel will be removed and that at Tom Cringle will only facilitate the traffic along the service road,” said Shaw.

As for Sergeant Wellington's request for speed bumps and a pedestrian crossing, Shaw said there are no plans to put any of those mechanisms along the service road. He also confirmed that traffic from Kingston will not be allowed to turn right at this location. The lights will only facilitate traffic off the service road.

At the end of March, the NWA said the Mandela Highway upgrade, a major component of the Government's Major Infrastructure Development Programme, was 96 per cent complete.

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