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Kingston traffic jams to be tackled under US$30m energy project

Published:Wednesday | September 14, 2016 | 9:00 AMSteven Jackson
In this 2012 file photo, an engineer installs traffic lights in Kingston. A new energy project aims to address traffic jams by synchronising stoplights across the Kingston Metropolitan Area.

A new energy-saving project costing US$30 million ($3.8 billion) will seek to reduce traffic jams in the Kingston Metropolitan Area (KMA) by synchronising 140 stop lights through a fibre-optic ring, while also cutting energy consumption at scores of government buildings.

The plan requires funding approval from donor agencies Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and Japan International Cooperation Agency. Both are considering loans of up to US$15 million each to a project that has Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica acting as the executing agency.

The project, dubbed 'Jamaica Energy Management and Efficiency Programme', involves three components: it aims to fast-track Government's National Energy Conservation and Efficiency Policy 2010-2030, target a 70 per cent reduction in energy "intensity", and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10 per cent, said the IDB.

The traffic component aims to reduce the idle time that cars run on the road, which would reduce gas consumption. It would achieve this by implementing a more robust urban traffic management system - UTMS - which involves linking into the fibre-optic ring already developed by telecoms providers.

The IDB revealed the project late August and released documents on the project profile and environmental analysis. Both documents contain figures which vary slightly when breaking down each component, but the objectives remain consistent.

Regarding the road network, the government will upgrade or implement technologies for nine road segments, most of which are located in Kingston and one in Spanish Town.

39-50 per cent growth

The IDB, utilising data from the National Works Agency (NWA), indicated that traffic growth along some of the KMA's key corridors has increased 39-50 per cent over a decade, 2005-2015, without any associated improvements in road or intersection capacity.

Additionally, the absence of a complete UTMS to sync the operation of 140 traffic lights, with average spacing of 300 metres in between, remains a key factor causing congestion in the KMA.

"Most of the population commutes within urban centres, resulting in significant amount of congestion, lost time and wasted gasolene during idling or stalled traffic, especially the capital city Kingston," stated the IDB.

Component I of the project amounts to US$24 million to finance energy efficiency and energy-conservation measures in government facilities, which could span 75 entities, with focus on educational and health facilities. Component II, at US$2.8 million, involves the financing of fuel efficiency in the transport sector. Component III, at US$1.8 million, will finance institutional strengthening for energy planning by developing information systems and training.

In 2015, public-sector facilities consumed some 7.4 per cent of all electricity generated in Jamaica, or approximately 393 gigawatt hours, costing the GOJ around US$36 million in oil imports, or an estimated US$102 million in electricity bills, the IDB said. Of this figure, roughly 22 per cent related to education and health facilities.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com