MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Work on the US$188-million May Pen to Williamsfield leg of Highway 2000 is fast advancing, with all major bridges complete and the project moving 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.
Errol Mortley, environmental manager at the National Road Operating and Constructing Company (NROCC) — which is responsible for overseeing the design, construction and maintenance of Jamaica's highways — said the project is 81.9 per cent complete.
He said earthworks — activities involved in creating a space where a road can be built — are almost complete in Manchester.
"Some work in the Melrose Hill area [is] about 98 per cent complete. For bridge construction, we are finished. Pipe culverts are 90 per cent [complete]… For safety barriers we are about 57 per cent [complete]," he told last Thursday's monthly meeting of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce at Mandeville Hotel.
He added that asphalt-laying is far advanced on the Clarendon section of the highway.
"We are just a little over 47 per cent so we have asphalted sections of the highway between Rio Minho Bridge and St Jago Road. We have asphalted the first layer of that section and then from you cross Milk River at St Toolies, we have done [that] first layer all the way up to Redberry, so it is only from Redberry to Melrose that we have not had any level of asphalting," he informed.
Mortley said the highway will bring an economic boon.
"The highway that we are building is not just for vehicles to move on. It is really a catalyst to serve the economic activities and to reduce crime and unemployment; [it is] also to provide direct links to the major townships in Jamaica," he explained.
He expects that people will relocate from urban areas to sections of St Elizabeth and Manchester following the completion of the highway.
Mortley added that there was an expansion of housing in Clarendon following the completion of the May Pen leg of Highway 2000.
He also pointed to the speed limit for the 28-kilometre May Pen to Williamsfield leg, saying, "It is designed at 110 km/h for the flat section [between May Pen and Toll Gate] and 80 km/h for the hilly section [between St Toolies and Williamsfield]."
The work, Mortley added, included consultation which was done with bauxite/alumina company Jamalco.
"We had to collaborate with Jamalco from 2017. We had just concluded those discussions this year to see how we could minimise the sterilisation of bauxite ores, so we had to make some adjustment within the Porus/Victoria Town mining area to avoid some of the big pits," explained Mortley.
He said Jamalco assessed the area to determine the outlay of ore bodies.
"We were able to work with Jamalco to come up with a best-fit alignment through that area.… We should not have the road at the expense of bauxite or the bauxite at the expense of the road," he reasoned.