ST TOOLIES, Manchester — Debris was Tuesday cleared from a section of St Toolies Road, which adjoins the US$188-million May Pen to Williamsfield leg of Highway 2000, that left residents stranded following rains associated with Hurricane Ian.
Residents of St Toolies and adjoining areas on Monday blamed the construction of the highway project for the debris which forced them to use alternative routes, including driving on a section of the unfinished highway to bypass a blocked section of St Toolies Road.
In a 50-second video a woman complained that the drainage work is not sufficient on the highway project.
"Look at the highway now, the St Toolies road is blocked, nothing can cross it here. Here are some vehicles stuck on the road and the dirt from the banking [where] a landslide [happened]… We need some help, we need justice," she said.
"Look at the condition [of the road], so if you are sick to go to the hospital right now, you can't make it," she added.
Stephen Edwards, managing director at National Road Operating and Constructing Company Limited (NROCC), which is responsible for overseeing the design, construction, and maintenance of Jamaica's highways, told the Jamaica Observer that, although attention was placed on areas of active construction, the rains affected the embankment of the highway.
"Upon learning of the possibility that Jamaica may be affected by a tropical storm NROCC immediately mobilised its project team to prepare. We can confirm that, as part of this preparation, heavy-duty equipment was strategically placed along the 27.5-kilometre construction site so that the contractor could respond quickly should the need arise. The country was subsequently placed on a tropical storm watch on Friday, September 23, 2022," he said in an e-mail on Tuesday.
"The project team continuously assessed the highway before, during, and after the major rain event, where conditions permitted them to do so safely. Careful attention was placed on areas of the active construction site that could possibly be impacted and mitigative measures were implemented," he added.
He said NROCC responded to the complaints of residents to remove debris from the roadway in St Toolies."Unfortunately, after more than three days of rainfall, the St Toolies community road was impacted due to sediments scouring from the highway embankments. The agency received reports of the situation on the evening of September 26, 2022 and an instruction was immediately issued to the contractor to address the situation. The debris was cleared by the following morning, September 27, 2022, enabling motorists to commute safely," said Edwards.
Work on the US$188-million May Pen to Williamsfield leg of Highway 2000 is fast advancing, with all major bridges on the roadway complete and the project advancing uphill in Manchester to meet the March 2023 deadline.
The project, which will reduce travel time between Kingston, Mandeville, and points west, was originally scheduled for completion in October 2022.
Edwards said the project is progressing and is encouraging residents to contact NROCC over concerns relating to the highway construction.
"It is important to note that the project is now 81 per cent complete, which includes ongoing drainage-related works. The completion is scheduled for March 2023. We seek the understanding of the residents of the surrounding communities while we work assiduously to complete the project at the highest local and international quality standards," he said."NROCC wants to hear all concerns that are related to projects that it is undertaking and takes all complaints seriously. The agency continues to encourage the public to bring any concerns that may arise to our attention or to the attention of the contractor. Complaints can be made by telephone calls to the office, in writing, or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org," he added.