Patria-Kaye Aarons | Road to hell paved with good intentions
Monday morning was pure hell. It took me two hours and 43 minutes to get from one end of Spanish Town Road to the other.
I left my house at 7 a.m. in Duhaney Park, where I live, and travelled to Spanish Town Road, which was easy. Four police officers with military precision kept traffic flowing at the intersection of Duhaney Park and Washington Boulevard. I made my way left and on to Spanish Town Road in less than three minutes. No traffic. No problem.
By Wray & Nephew, the pile-up began, but there were police personnel in the middle of the lanes, speaking to every driver and advising that Three Miles was closed. Only those whose destination was along Spanish Town Road were allowed to continue. The rest were instructed to take the first detour. The second checkpoint was just below Red Stripe. Everybody was detoured there, no matter your destination.
I was confused.
In all, I counted 14 police personnel - four by Duhaney Park (where there was no traffic), five at two different points along Spanish Town Road, five on Hagley Park Road, and zero on any of the alternative roads I was signalled to take.
The police did an excellent job of telling people where not to drive and a horrible job at indicating the alternatives. Where the real confusion was, they were missing in action. Some newly erected signs saying (one way) did little to indicate to drivers where they should drive to get to their destinations. Everyone was just expected to follow their gut.
The detour routes were complete chaos. Waterhouse busmen driving like they were motorcyclists, horns blaring (for what reason, I still can't understand), multiple fender benders because persons were tailgating each other not wanting to let any other driver get in front of them.
I saw one car blazing down the sidewalk of Marcus Garvey Drive, which had been turned into a one way, four-lane street. A utility pole stopped his progress and he eventually parked the car and walked to his destination.
There was the heartbreaking scene of an old lady and her uniformed nurse forced to walk in the blazing sun. Her insulin in a little igloo in the nurse's hand reminded me that my inconvenience wasn't the worst. A distressed daddy let his daughter out of the vehicle a long way away from her school gate, visibly in fear of her missing classes.
I couldn't begin to calculate the loss of productive hours of the many commuters walking to work because they couldn't get a bus. I can't imagine the revenue lost as I was surrounded by food and beverage delivery trucks as I inched along.
I lost an entire day of production at my own Sweetie factory. Half my team live in Kingston and we work in Clarendon. It took me 3 hours to pick up my driver, and by then it was already 10:17. It took us another hour and a half to get to the second person, and it just didn't make sense anymore. I called off the workday at that point.
The National Works Agency and the Jamaica Constabulary Force got this one very wrong. Hooray, development, pretty roads and all, but not at the expense of sanity. Tuesday morning was only slightly better. And that's not good enough. Time for a better plan, because this isn't going to cut it.
We are quick to praise the NWA and JCF when you get it right. This is not one of those times.