MANDEVILLE, Manchester — With work advancing on the US$188-million May Pen to Williamsfield leg of Highway 2000, the police are urging drivers of laden trucks descending the Old Melrose Hill Road to be extremely careful.
Eastbound traffic has been diverted from the Melrose Hill Bypass to the Old Melrose Hill Road for the next seven months to facilitate the construction of an interchange in the vicinity of the bypass.
Head of the Manchester police Superintendent Lloyd Darby explained that two-way traffic will be allowed on the old road with an exception for trucks travelling uphill.
“We know a lot of people live along that road…There is a sign at Trinity that instructs that trucks should not use that road going up, but trucks will use it coming down from Mandeville,” said Darby.
“The Melrose Hill Bypass will be reverted to single-lane traffic for westbound traffic coming from Porus,” Darby added.
The road was built over two decades ago to bypass the narrow and steep accident-prone old road, which became a ghost town overtime as roast yam vendors moved to the Melrose Yam Park on the bypass.
Darby is appealing to truck drivers to exercise caution when using the old road.
“Laden trucks on hills [whether] descending or ascending right across Jamaica, certainly in Manchester we have a lot of hilly highways and we would advise drivers of these heavy units to engage low gear in good time. Do not try to descend the hill at such a speed that the vehicle might get out of control,” pleaded Darby.
He pointed to the crash-prone Spur Tree Hill main road, which is located west of Melrose Hill, as an example of an area where out-of-control trucks have caused many crashes, some resulting in fatalities.
“We see a lot of that happening along Spur Tree Hill. The Old Melrose Hill Road is much narrower than the Melrose Hill Bypass and we are just asking for extra care from these large units as they descend [the hill],” he said.
Road safety experts have argued that inexperienced drivers, overweight and defective vehicles are among the main causes for crashes on the crash-prone Spur Tree Hill main road.
According to Darby, the traffic changes on Melrose Hill are for a long-term benefit with the highway project up to last week being 72 per cent complete.
“The construction of the road will benefit all in the long run, so [motorists] just need to be patient now. We don’t want a situation where people just use the road improperly, resulting in accidents, injuries or loss of lives. There will be a lot of changes throughout the months as the construction progresses,” added Darby.
He said members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force will be deployed to assist in the traffic diversion.
“We are asking motorists to observe the directions given by flag people. The police will be there, out in their numbers, for the first week as people are sensitised as to the changes. We are just asking people to be disciplined and obey the signs and instructions,” said Darby.
The highway project – which will reduce travel time between Kingston, Mandeville and points west – is fast advancing with it expected to be completed ahead of the March 2023 deadline, according to the National Road Operating and Constructing Company Limited.
The contractor of the highway project, China Harbour Engineering Company, has promised that during the traffic diversion it will upgrade the Melrose Bypass to a four-lane dual carriageway.