MANDEVILLE, Manchester — The crash-prone Winston Jones Highway and a section of the Spur Tree main road are among six roadways across the country to undergo improvements for road safety over the next two months.
Communications Manager at the National Works Agency (NWA) Stephen Shaw told the Jamaica Observer on Tuesday that $86 million has been allocated for the remarking of the roads and the use of raised pavement markers, or cat's eyes.
"We are going to be doing some marking. We have a contract that is to be executed dealing with the road from Spur Tree to Williamsfield. We are also going to be doing Whitney Turn to Trinity. Between [both] we are spending about $32 million," he said.
The project will also extend to the western and eastern parts of the country.
"We have Ferris Cross to Savanna-la-Mar in the west. We are going to do some work on the Mandela to Hellshire road and the Old Harbour roundabout up to Caymanas in St Catherine, and the [road from] Buff Bay to Hope Bay Police Station," said Shaw.
"Some of the projects will start before the end of this month but some will commence in April. They should be completed by early May," added Shaw.
His announcement follows an article by the Observer last month which highlighted renewed calls for action to be taken to make road infrastructure safer.
Since the start of the year there have been three major crashes in proximity of the Winston Jones Highway, close to Mandeville.
The most recent crash, involving two taxis three weeks ago, claimed the lives of three men and left 11 people injured. In January there were two accidents involving trucks, hours apart on the Winston Jones Highway.
Vice-chairman of the National Road Safety Council (NRSC) Dr Lucien Jones, whose father the highway is named after, pointed to the need for a focus on safe roads based on the World Health Organization's (WHO) star rating.
"One star means the worst and five star means the best. The more you build better star-quality roads, the more likely you are going to have less fatal crashes and a return on your money in terms of the safety of the road," Dr Jones told the Observer on Tuesday.
He reiterated that the council has been pushing for an adoption of a safe-systems approach to cauterise crashes.
"In that context the announcement by Mr Shaw is very welcomed because it would mean that we are going to be in a better position to have a higher star-quality road," said Dr Jones.
He added that the WHO recommends that roads be of at least three-star quality.
"Any kind of money spent on roads will be of great benefit to road safety and our pledge to reduce fatalities on the [nation's] roads," added Dr Jones.
Reiterating that there are roads across the country in need of urgent resurfacing/rehabilitation, Dr Jones said a survey was done between the police and Mona GeoInformatics Institute to list all the roads which need to be worked on.
"This [is] welcomed news in the sense that the [police and researchers] have gone across the country and have identified those roads which are in need of improved road furniture and marking, so I am sure this will be welcomed news for the police and certainly for the NRSC," said Dr Jones.
Meanwhile Shaw, when asked about reports of cat's eyes being stolen after being placed on roads, said it is difficult to identify culprits.
"There is some truth to it. What happens is that [some] persons who operate heavy-duty vehicles — trucks and trailers — steal them and put them on [the vehicles]. You would have to prove that it came from [off the road] [as] there is no special mark on the cat's eye," said Shaw.