MONTEGO BAY, St James — Minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister (West), Homer Davis, says efforts are being made to expand the Montego Bay Transport Centre as part of a move to ease the existing traffic congestion in the resort city.
According to Davis, who is a former mayor of Montego Bay and the sitting Member of Parliament for St James Southern, he has invited his colleague, Transport Minister Audley Shaw, to the city in a bid to secure lands owned by the Jamaica Railway Corporation for the much-needed expansion of the centre, which lies in close proximity.
"I have arranged a visit by the responsible minister, Mr Audley Shaw, to come down [to Montego Bay], with the view of getting possession of some of the railway lands to expand the transport centre, to include sections of Railway Lane," Davis told the Jamaica Observer West.
There have long been calls for the expansion of the centre which has outgrown its capacity.
As such, buses transporting workers in the hotel and business process outsourcing sectors frequently park on sections of the usually busy Howard Cooke Boulevard, adding to the traffic congestion in the tourist resort city.
Additionally, the inadequacy of the centre has led to other challenges such as illegal parking and indiscipline behaviour among taxi operators.
In light of this, Montego Bay business mogul Mark Kerr Jarrett recently called on Government to the use railway lands to exponentially expand the Montego Bay Transport Centre, which, he says, is now bursting at the seams.
"What I would ask of the Government is with regards to facilitation, and especially the BPO [business process outsourcing] right now, is a transportation hub in Montego Bay, which is multi-modal, where we can bring in all of our employees from western Jamaica and bring them into an organised transportation centre where they can then go out, whether to BPO or hotels, or downtown Montego Bay, Fairview, or wherever, even along the the elegant corridor," Kerr Jarrett suggested.
He noted that the proposed expansion of the transportation centre would facilitate an increased number of a variety of motor vehicles and assist in easing "some of the congestion" which is created from the dropping off and picking up of workers on Howard Cooke Boulevard.
"We're having a problem in BPO now. Because when the shifts change and the buses leave the Montego Bay Free Zone and the Barnett Tech Park, it creates a tremendous amount of congestion on the Howard Cooke [Boulevard] and by Pier One and others. And the suggestion has come from Mr Winston Dear [businessman], and also Mike Henry [former transport and mining minister] brought it up, is to take the old railway lands and turn that into a multi-modal transport centre," said Kerr Jarrett.
"It will take the traffic off the main road and into a central area from which everybody can go, from say 40-seater buses to taxis, cars or mini buses, and be distributed accordingly," he added.
Kerr Jarrett was a panellist on the Invest MoBay Forum and Public Discussion, which formed part of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry's (MBCCI) Expo 2022, held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, last week. The discussion was themed: 'Creating Opportunities for Growth and Development.'
Davis, who was also one of the three panellists, which included Gloria Henry, noted that "when Mark touched on that, it is something that is very frontal on my vision going forward for Montego Bay".
"Yes, we definitely need an enlarged space for a transportation hub and when I look at the railroad lands, coupled with what is there now, and sections of the lower section of Railway Lane, I think that area would be an ideal area to take the traffic eastbound and westbound out of Montego Bay. So it is something he touched that we are actually in discussion," Davis said.
"If we can get all of that area and put it into the transport centre then we will have more space for the taxis and the buses and then we could have an eastbound and a westbound operation. So the people who are coming from Irwin can just come and turn back and get back out of the town instead of having to travel way down into the town and stuff like that."
Davis later told the Observer West that he expects Shaw to visit Montego Bay later this month as part of efforts to secure portions of the railway lands for the expansion of the transport centre.
"We are trying to see if we can get him [Shaw] before the end of the November month. He should have been down [to Montego Bay] on the 28th of October, but I was out of the country," said Davis.
In fact, the government minister noted that as far back as when he was mayor of Montego Bay, he sought to acquire the lands to expand the centre.
"It is something that I am supportive of, even before I was minister. When I was mayor of Montego Bay we went there, we took the chairman of the Jamaica Railway Corporation, Mr Ferris Ziadie, and we were looking at how we could get it going," Davis told the Observer West.
"We need some space in Montego Bay.
There is a need for it [expansion] because this transportation centre was built about 20 years ago. The [expanded] transportation centre would also serve as a drop off point for the people who work in the BPO sector, because those buses don't have a designated area to park. They use the Pier One car park but some still park along the road."