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Work on St Thomas leg of South Coast Highway to begin 2018

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Observer staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, July 15, 2017

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WORK on the St Thomas leg of the South Coast Highway is to begin in 2018, the National Works Agency (NWA) has said.

The disclosure was made by NWA Communications Manager Stephen Shaw at a 'Hope for Jamaica' town hall meeting put on by the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation in Morant Bay, St Thomas, on Thursday.

Shaw was responding to a question posed by Yallahs resident David Forrester, who enquired about the timeline for the US$384-million project.

“As it relates to the South Coast Highway, there are a number of things that we need to get out the way. The EIA (Environment Impact Assessment) has been done and we're going to be making a public presentation shortly. It is a requirement for us to get access to the money that is in place,” Shaw told scores of people gathered at the Goodyear Oval in the parish.

He said Cabinet submission, as it relates to land acquisition, “and all being well” China Harbour Engineering Company should be able to present a final design by December.

“So realistically, we are looking at early next year so far as equipment being on the ground is concerned,” the NWA communications manager added.

The project will cover a four-lane highway from Harbour View to Bull Bay, largely utilising the existing alignment of the roadway; an upgrade to the road between Bull Bay and Morant Bay, which may include minor road realignment, a truck lane and the reduction of deep corners and steep ridges, as well as improvement of the road from Morant Bay to Port Antonio, and Morant Bay to Cedar Valley.

Meanwhile, construction to develop the old Goodyear Factory in the parish into an urban town centre, a move which should see investments flowing into the parish, is expected to begin later this year.

“We anticipate that the project will start sometime in the end of this year. We also anticipate that it will be a two-year construction period,” Lyttleton 'Tanny' Shirley, chairman of Factories Corporation of Jamaica, which is spearheading the $4-billion project, announced. Shirley was also speaking at the town hall meeting.

The 365,000-square-foot centre is expected to house the St Thomas Municipal Corporation; a town hall and conference centre; a justice square area to incorporate services offered by Government; financial institutions; two universities and two business process outsourcing (BPO) companies; two fast-food restaurants, among other things.

In light of the development, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said Government has received expressions of interest in the 80,000 square feet of BPO space that will be created in the centre.

Holness said that the companies are expected to employ 3,000 people, working on two shifts, and noted that Government had commenced promoting the facility, which resulted in the expressions of interest.

He cautioned, however, that no formal arrangements have been established as “persons are going to want to see the space built first [and] do their investigations to see whether there is the actual population to provide the labour pool”.

“I know, based on the high schools that you have and how this parish has improved in its literacy and educational performance, that you have that surplus labour here that could easily be absorbed into those BPO operations,” the prime minister said.

The urban centre, he said, is being developed to deliver key public- and private-sector services in what he described as an “orderly and more efficient” manner, adding that the existing town centre wasn't planned for the level of activity that is currently there.

“People who come here and the people who live here would like to conduct their business in efficient, safe and secure circumstances,” Holness said.

As a result of the new development, Holness said Government will be taking steps to declare the old town centre as a heritage site.

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