MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Opposition spokesman on housing, transport and works Mikael Phillips is appealing to the Government for urgent rehabilitation of Jamaica's south coast road network, between May Pen and Westmoreland, saying that it is intolerable.
“The whole south coast has been ignored by Government overall. If you take from May Pen coming off of the highway go straight to the border of St Elizabeth and Westmoreland, the roadway is in a condition that, for a major roadway, it is unacceptable,” he told the Jamaica Observer on Monday.
Sections of the road in the vicinity of Bustamante Highway have been in a deplorable state for weeks, resulting in traffic delays on the crucial link from Kingston to Mandeville and points west.
Communications manager at the National Works Agency (NWA) Stephen Shaw told the Observer on Monday that a plan is being worked on for the bumpy, potholed stretch of road.
He did not give a timeline for its rehabilitation.
According to Phillips, Jamaica's “south coast has been treated — as I have always referred to rural Jamaica — as a bastard child of the rest of Jamaica”.
While conceding that the Southern Coastal Highway was being extended with work ongoing from May Pen to Williamsfield in Manchester, Phillips described maintenance of the existing road as “a shame”.
The US$188-million highway — which will reduce travel time between Kingston, Mandeville and other points west for motorists who choose to pay tolls — was originally scheduled for completion in October 2022, but has been extended to January 2023.
Phillips, who is also the Member of Parliament for Manchester North Western, complained about the need for rehabilitation of the Spur Tree main road, a part of which is in his constituency.
“The road … is a NWA road. We expect the NWA to at least maintain [it]. It shouldn't take a Member of Parliament to maintain the Spur Tree Road. That road was slated for rehabilitation prior to the 2016 election,” he said.
Pointing to damage done years ago while laying water pipes, Phillips reiterated the need for greater collaboration between the NWA and National Water Commission (NWC).
“There was no real rehabilitation of the road after the laying of pipes, and this was years ago,” he explained.
The Pepper well field, downslope at low altitude in St Elizabeth, is the main source of water for Mandeville, which is more than 2,000 feet above sea level, atop the Manchester Plateau.
Phillips further explained the need for urgent collaboration between the agencies.
“NWC says that 80 per cent of the water coming to Mandeville is what they would refer to as non-revenue water, meaning the water leaks out before it reaches the customers… There has to be some collaboration with the NWC in changing out those pipes before the rehabilitation of the road,” he argued.
Phillips said many of the communities off the Spur Tree main road are without potable water.
Appealing to the Government for the necessary work to be done, Phillips pointed out that Kingsland, which is located west of Mandeville, is among the areas where the main road is in need of rehabilitation.
“Potholes now start to break out in that area,” said Phillips.
“Will it be rehabilitated any at all? If the rest of the Spur Tree road from the Hatfield/Greenvale roundabout to even the top of Spur Tree is not even rehabilitated under normal circumstances, then what we will have is that even that piece [at Kingsland] that was rehabilitated some four years ago is about to become like the rest of the roadway, which is sad, because it is a major thoroughfare on the south coast,” he said.
Shaw, in response to questions about well-needed roadworks in Manchester, pointed to last week's announcement by Prime Minister Andrew Holness in the House of Representatives that $16 million is being allocated to each constituency for road patching, debushing and drain-cleaning works.
“We have a programme that the prime minister announced last week. I can't tell you which roads are going to be [addressed]. The roads selected are going to be based on discussions with the Members of Parliament,” Shaw said.