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Despite traffic jams, Vaz says road projects had to start now

Friday, September 14, 2018

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MINISTER without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation Daryl Vaz says the Government has been searching for more solutions to the traffic issues created by the current road projects.

Vaz told Wednesday's post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House that among the responses being considered is a multi-agency situation room, through which information from the National Works Agency (NWA), the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and Government's information agencies such as the Jamaica Information Service (JIS), would be used to keep the commuting public up to date on congestion and available routes.

“Based on discussions we had with the prime minister at the Cabinet meeting on Monday, we are moving to introduce additional measures,” Vaz assured the press.

“I think that communicating with the travelling public is key… we need to have real-time information to alleviate the situation,” he added.

Vaz said that the Cabinet would be looking at other possibilities, including staggering school or work hours, encouraging car pooling, as well as arrangements with the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) to introduce special services for specific areas that are congested.

He admitted that there have been major challenges with the travelling processes, since the resumption of schools.

“I am fully aware of it. I think that as Government we have to have better communication. There has to be better signage; there has to be better alternative routes and, of course, we have to make sure that we maintain the security of the routes,” the minister stated.

“We are fully aware that there are shortcomings, but I can assure you that we are working tirelessly to alleviate the problems,” he stated.

However, Vaz argued that the Government had no choice but to go ahead with the US$350 million worth of projects, financed by the Chinese EXIM Bank, which had reached the stage of “use it, or lose it” after years of delay.

He said that there are timelines with performance targets for taking up the loans, which have to be met.

“We have a timeline in which to complete it, if not the loan would have been withdrawn,” he noted.

Vaz also announced that the US$384-million Southern Coastal Highway Improvement Project, which entails rehabilitation of the 110-kilometre road between Harbour View in Kingston and Port Antonio in Portland, is to start soon with the spending of US$85 million on improvements to the Yallahs Bridge to Louden Hill in St Thomas, as well as the Drapers to Port Antonio section.

He said that the loan would also cover the outstanding May Pen-Williamsfield leg of Highway 2000.

The minister also announced that two other projects — the Morant Bay Urban Centre and Naggo Head Industrial Park — were also slated to start by 2019 as joint venture projects for which agreements have been signed.

— Balford Henry

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