MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Prime Minister Andrew Holness has moved to allay fears of flooding and other concerns among residents of Redberry (near Porus) and surrounding areas where the US$188-million May Pen to Williamsfield leg of Highway 2000 is now under construction.
“I am taking a personal interest in ensuring that the highway does not become the cause of flooding and long term dislocation, I want to give you that assurance,” Holness told residents of Redberry on Friday during a tour of the highway project.
The highway, which is now 75 per cent complete, is fast advancing with it expected to be completed ahead of 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.
Holness said it is “almost unavoidable” that major developments such as the highway construction will affect homes and businesses.
“… And indeed your way of life, it might disrupt where you normally walk, it might disrupt your taxi routes. But once it settles in you will find that a new pattern might develop, which could very well be more advantageous and beneficial to you than what you had before,” said Holness.
“I want you to consider that this road is going to be carrying quite a bit of traffic, even though it is not possible for them to exit the highway here (Redberry), but what you will benefit from is first of all a better road surface going through, a better bridge facility, and I know you have some worries about this new alignment of the road,” he added.
The National Road Operating and Constructing Company Limited (NROCC), which is responsible for overseeing the design, construction and maintenance of Jamaica’s highways, has repeatedly said that work is currently in progress on the drainage features in the St Toolies and Redberry areas.
Holness, in responding to a resident’s plight that her business of 15 years has been affected by the highway construction, appeared to suggest that compensation and/or remedies would be considered.
“What we are trying to do is to look at cases individually, so we will see the merit of your case and if the case has merit then between NROCC, your Member of Parliament and other agencies of Government then we will seek to assist,” he said.
“There are many ways in which we can provide some assistance, so what we are trying to do is to be fair. The objective is that change should not be a zero sum game,” he added.
“We try to do change so that everybody can win, so we don’t want it to be that the road users win, but you who are in the communities lose, that’s not what we want. We have to ensure that if you suffered a loss that we can quantify that it’s justifiable then we will figure out a way to ensure that that loss is addressed,” said Holness.
The prime minister said he is also aware of issues affecting communities resulting from the Southern Coastal Highway Improvement project in eastern Jamaica.
“I have seen the complaints not just here, as you would know. I was watching the news — the people in Grant’s Pen in St Thomas and in those areas, they are having it particularly hard,” he said while assuring that he will be touring the affected areas in the coming weeks.