St James taxi operators vow to continue bad road protest todayTuesday, September 21, 2021
BY HORACE HINES
JOHN'S HALL, St James — Scores of public transportation operators who service the route between Montego Bay and John's Hall in St James withdrew their service yesterday in protest over the deplorable state of the road and have threatened to escalate their demonstration by blocking the John's Hall road today.
“We are having a peaceful protest today; we are just sending out the message. Tomorrow is a different thing. So, people, you need to stock up [on food items]. Government say no-movement day, so tomorrow is a no-movement day fi we. No bus nah run, nobody nah go a market, nothing at all. So we are sending out the message clear,” said one operator who gave his name only as Matthew.
Another cab driver, Owen Grant, issued a similar warning. He explained that, since he has been servicing the route for the past decades, “this is the worst condition that the road has ever been in”.
“This is overwhelming, this is too much, and it is like nobody is hearing our cry. So we are out here staging a peaceful demonstration, but if [our concerns are] not addressed, tomorrow is going to be a different thing. We need the road to be fixed, and we hope somebody will hear our plea. If not, we are going to have to block it. If you notice today we didn't block it. We protested peacefully, but if we get no attention we are going to block it. We need it to be fixed,” Grant insisted.
The irate transport operators said that they have to dig deep into their pockets frequently to repair front-end damage to their vehicles as a result of the pothole-riddled road that they claim has been allowed to deteriorate without any attention for a number of years.
“The cost of maintenance has sky-rocketed, and even though the condition of the road is so bad, actually every Monday morning there is the examiner further down waiting for us coming through the bad roads. So this is too much. We want to appeal to somebody — the MP, the councillor. We want somebody with authority to come and do something for us. When the rain comes it gets worse,” one of the protesters said.
The drivers, who also fumed over a dust nuisance affecting them on the road, claimed the deplorable state of the road has been exacerbated since the construction of the nearby Estuary housing development.
Member of Parliament for St James East Central Edmund Bartlett, who conceded that the corridor needs urgent attention, implored the road users to exercise a little more patience as the contract for the work, estimated at over $200 million, had been put to tender two weeks ago.
“So it will take a little time,” for the repair work to start, Bartlett told the Jamaica Observer.
“We know the problem is that the road is bad, but we just have to allow the process.”
He added that temporary repairs were recently undertaken on the road, but the condition “returned to square one” after recent heavy rains.
Community relations officer for the National Works Agency's western office Janel Ricketts noted that in 2019 the agency commenced, through a phased approach, the rehabilitation of the 6.1 km stretch of road between the Fairfield Bridge and the Hurlock Bridge in St James. To date, approximately $200 million has been spent to upgrade just under four kilometres of the road. This was completed under the first and second phases of the programme.
These projects involved extensive drainage improvement and significant repairs to the road surface.
Ricketts said that the third phase of the project will see the upgrade of the Friendship to Hurlock road.
She noted that the road which serves several communities, including Tucker, Irwin, and the new Estuary development in Friendship, is heavily traversed.