MONTEGO BAY, St James — In anticipation of the frustration expected to accompany the severe traffic congestion when school reopens on Monday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has assured stakeholders that the Government is trying to move expeditiously to complete the US$274-million Montego Bay perimeter road and other highway projects.
"From the time of thinking about the road to the time of building the road can be as much as five years— yes, it can be that long. We are trying to move very quickly but it is just what it is. So, I want you to know that your pain points today, the pressures you face today, are being seriously addressed by your Government," Holness told attendees at a town hall meeting at Harmony Beach Park on Thursday.
His address came a day after Deputy Prime Minister Dr Horace Chang, who is also the minister of national security and Member of Parliament for St James North Western, told the Jamaica Observer that currently piling is underway for a 180-metre bridge at the Barnett River gully as part of the project. He added that after preliminary work is out of the way the project will move ahead expeditiously.
"We have gone through the environmental studies — because you have to fine-tune all of that — but work will pick up over the next six months significantly in terms of visible work. Right now they are doing some land-clearing in Green Pond and they are doing the piling for the bridge, which is the longest bridge in Jamaica at this point," Dr Chang said.
He is projecting that the project will be completed by the end of 2025.
"They are currently doing work from last year when we announced it and signed off [on] the engineering, acquisition of property, the movement of utility pole, et cetera. But I think once they complete the preliminary work — that is the design is settled and we acquire all the properties — they have the capacity to move fast so we will see how it goes. We're looking at a completion date sometime near the end of 2025," he stated.
He was speaking with the Observer last week following a meeting with Lu Yunpeng, president of China Harbour Engineering Company's (CHEC) Americas Division, who was in the island for a brief visit during which he got a first-hand look at the progress of the project.
"I came to have a discussion with Mr Lu, the president of...China Harbour. They had their retreat in Jamaica last week; he decided to take a look at the Montego Bay perimeter road," Dr Chang said.
The project is undertaken by CHEC under the supervision of the National Road Operating and Constructing Company Limited (NROCC).
Prime Minister Holness broke ground for the project at Ironshore in St James on Saturday, July 16, 2022.
Chang expressed satisfaction with the progress of the project.
"My pleasure is that we have seen what has been a long haul to get the Montego Bay perimeter road in place, and those of you who are here know how difficult it is to traverse Montego Bay," he said.
"We started discussion in 2005 to be exact so it's good to see it is coming to fruition. And I say now that this has started, China Harbour (who has been here for some time), they are now looking how they can do further investment in Jamaica as we build our country and create the foundation for continued growth," Dr Chang added.
The 14.9-kilometre national development project is a collaboration between the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation and CHEC.
The perimeter road is expected to provide motorists with an alternate route around Montego Bay and should ease vehicular traffic congestion in that resort city.
The project also includes the rehabilitation of Barnett Street and West Green Avenue, a 10.5-kilometre Long Hill bypass road, and a comprehensive drainage study of Montego Bay.