Highway toll-free extension disappoints Jukie Chin
Juici Patties founder and proprietor Jukie Chin says he is disappointed with the Government’s three-month extension of toll-free use of the May Pen to Williamsfield leg of Highway 2000, pointing to businesses bypassed being on the verge of closure.
“They (Government) know why they are doing it. I don’t have anything to say more than I am disappointed, but they would know why they are doing it,” he told the Jamaica Observer on Friday.
Chin’s comments follow Prime Minister Andrew Holness’s announcement of the extension of the toll-free travel until March 31, 2024 on Friday via a media release.
Toll-free use of the highway was originally set to end year-end.
“Business is slow, but we can manage. I am really sorry for the people who only have one business and they are struggling and are on the verge of closing,” said Chin, who operates one of his restaurants at Clarendon Park.
For decades, Clarendon Park had been the go-to-place and rest stop for commuters travelling between Kingston, Mandeville and points west along the south coast.
The highway bypasses Clarendon Park, which, for more than two decades, has been the home of Juici Patties with its 21-acre headquarters.
Chin said he is “sympathetic” towards vendors and small business owners who are struggling to keep their businesses afloat.
“Business is slow, but remember, we have over 60 stores, so we can manage, but there are persons out there like the people (vendors) on the street, who only have one store, so it is a bigger challenge for them,” he said.
Holness explained that the extension will give time for the completion of negotiations for the operations of the toll road.
“This decision is intended to provide more time for ongoing negotiations between TransJamaican Highway Limited (TJH) and the National Road Operating and Constructing Company Limited (NROCC). These discussions focus on finalising the concession for Phase 1C, for which TJH, the current operator of the Kingston to May Pen segment of the East-West Highway, holds a right of first refusal,” the release read in part.
The May Pen to Williamsfield leg includes approximately 23 kilometres of a four-lane, arterial divided highway on a new alignment and approximately five kilometres of the existing Melrose Hill Bypass, now a four-lane, rural, arterial divided highway.
Holness reiterated plans to extend the highway further west bypassing the crash-prone Spur Tree Hill Road.
“Looking ahead, the Government plans to further extend the highway to bypass Spur Tree within the next five years, continuing its commitment to improving Jamaica’s road infrastructure,” the release said.
Earlier this year Holness announced that the Government intends to extend the highway from Williamsfield to Hodges, near Black River.