Sun | Dec 11, 2016

Safe passage - National Road Safety Council OKs Mount Rosser bypass

Published:Sunday | August 24, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Paula Fletcher, executive director of the National Road Safety Council . - File
Members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force and Jamaica Automobile Association hold safety placards during a tour of the North-South leg of Highway 2000 in St Catherine last Thursday. - Ian Allen/Photographer
Damian Anderson (right), quality control engineer at CHEC, explains features of the highway to participants on a tour last Thursday. - Ian Allen/Photographer
A worker puts on finishing touches at one of the escape lanes on the roadway before its opening earlier this month. - Photo by Jermaine Barnaby/Photographer
1
2
3
4

Sheldon Willliams, Staff Reporter

The recently opened section of the North-South leg of Highway 2000, which bypasses Mount Rosser, has been deemed safe for motorists by prominent road-safety advocates, who are satisfied with the safety mechanisms and response systems in place.

Paula Fletcher, executive director
of the National Road Safety Council (NRSC); Dr Lucien Jones,
vice-chairman of the NRSC; and Duane Ellis, general manager of the
Jamaica Automobile Association (JAA), among others, toured the new
stretch of road last Thursday. The inspection followed complaints by
some motorists that it was too steep and strenuous on their vehicles
when going up.

BRAKE MORE
OFTEN

Graeme Patrick, senior toll road inspector at
the Toll Authority, admitted that the highway's design means motorists
will have to brake more often. However, he said, with a public-education
campaign, motorists will adapt gradually.

"Where
people are having trouble is because it is an extended slope; it runs
for five kilometres. There is no other road in Jamaica that sustains a
slope like this for so long," he said.

In light of
this, Patrick said, "What we need to do is to educate the users on
traversing a slope like this, not so much coming up ... . The issue
comes when you are coming down the slope, because people are not used to
mashing their brakes so long. People will learn as they go along, but
we need to reach those persons who have never been on this road
before."

There is also a point for motorists to test
their brakes before they begin the descent from Moneague, St
Ann.

The road-safety advocates lauded four arrester
beds along the highway. Three have a sloped design, while the other is
flat. The special slopes are designed with gravel to stop vehicles whose
drivers may lose control when descending the
slope.

Damian Anderson, quality control engineer at
China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), explained: "If you come down
the lane without your brakes, you go to the side where the gravel is on.
The idea is that if you are coming down the highway and lose your
brakes you should be able to go up on the gravel side. That should
reduce your speed to a stop and give you enough time to allow you to fix
what you are fixing and get back on the highway," he
said.

There is also the option for motorists to remain
stationary until a response team arrives.

Fletcher
commented: "It is quite a unique figure, that if you are coming downhill
and you think you are going too fast, you just head your car in that
direction and it goes up a slope. And I gather that there is special
gravel in place that will hold the car."

CAMERAS IN
PLACE

She also noted the inclusion of cameras above
the arrester beds and solar lighting to provide high visibility at
night.

"The cameras now will bring to the attention
of the maintenance team that there is a vehicle in difficulty and they
will come and help you," she said.

To prevent
landslides, piles had to be plunged into the ground to reinforce the
earth and steady the roadway. Engineer Ryan Smith explained that the
size of the piles varies based on geotechnical
findings.

"Some go 30 metres and some go 20 metres.
After we do that, we also inject anchor cables into the earth fill,
which is also pushed through the top of the piles and strapped. The
earthwork is also reinforced as well," Smith said.

The
hill has an eight per cent gradient and runs for five kilometres, or
about three miles. Some of the technology used in its construction was a
first for both Jamaica and the Western Hemisphere. Anchor cable frames
were also attached to the mountainsides. Engineers dug into the hillside
30 metres horizontally, tied cables together and then applied
cement.

The frames have a lifespan of more than 50
years.

IMPRESSED

Again, Fletcher was
pleased. "I am pretty impressed with the engineering used to stabilise
the soil, so that they could build the roadway on it. We stopped along
the road and got a first-hand view and explanation on the two ways used
to control the soil used to make it safe," she
said.

There are cable barriers to prevent boulders
from rolling down on a community below the highway, which pleased
Fletcher.

"They have rock base and they also have
wire covering it so if any rocks come loose, they will be caught within
the netting in wide enough areas," she said.

However,
one of the hazards Fletcher pointed out was open trenches along the
roadway - something which the engineers plan to address shortly.

"There are some types of open trenches when heading
north that we were concerned about, but I gather that they are going to
be putting up barriers to prevent people from running off," Fletcher
remarked.

Road signage is at present inadequate, with
some still being manufactured.

"I hope the message
will go out that it is a pretty safe roadway, and we are pleased with
what we saw today," Fletcher
said.