Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Highway hell! - Caymanas Country Club residents cry foul

Published:Monday | March 21, 2016 | 3:00 AMBarbara Ellington
Lily Marie-Hall, a resident at the Caymanas Country Club Estate, St Catherine, speaks to The Gleaner at her home yesterday.
A section of the North South Highway above the homes in Block C at Caymanas Country Club Estate, St Catherine. Residents say the highway is too close for comfort and the sound barrier is inadequate
Two drains from the highway leading to the back fence of Caymanas Country Club Estate, St Catherine which residents fear will be a source for mosquito breeding. The blue 'sound wall' to the left is woefully inadequate to keep out the noisy traffic along the highway.
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Last week's Gleaner articles about the North-South Highway, which starts at Caymanas in St Catherine, kicked off a firestorm of discussion about the high cost of the proposed toll rates.

But added to that, it prompted an invitation from residents of the upscale Caymanas Country Club Estate for this writer to come see and hear the other side of the Gleaner article headlined 'Caymanas to Moneague: beautiful and breathtaking'.

Contrary to the protest about the expense to motorists, many of the residents at Caymanas Estate would love to see the high toll rates remain in order to deter users and ease their plight of having to contend with the noise from round-the-clock vehicular traffic.

One resident who wished to remain anonymous told The Gleaner that she and her neighbours in Block C, whose houses are directly parallel to the highway, have no privacy since the opening of the new highway.

"We have to endure the prying eyes of the curious who park their vehicles and exit with cameras and even binoculars to peek into our houses, so you could be inside with your back door open and suddenly feel eyes on you," she said.

"We support the highway, we want what is best for Jamaica, but we were here before it came," the shy resident pointed out.

 

NEGATIVE ISSUES

 

That, and a host of other negative issues that they endure, "was not what we paid for," added Lily-Marie Hall, outgoing public relations officer of the community. She demitted office at yesterday's annual general meeting.

She said their biggest concern was the noise from vehicles, in particular, the heavy trucks that change gears to ascend and descend the hill.

"When we came here to live almost two years ago, there was no road there. Just about five months after settling in, we started hearing the noise of the digging on the hillside. Later came blasting and cutting down of trees," Hall said.

Residents began to wonder what was becoming of the tranquillity for which they had shelled out between $12.6 million and $17.6 million.

Several calls have been made, several emails sent and face-to-face discussions held with the developers, construction teams, government ministers and even the Office of the Prime Minister, but the major problems persist, they said. These include cracks in structural walls of the perimeter fence, as well as walls inside some houses that are yet to be fixed. All these have been caused by the construction of the highway.

Hall said a few weeks prior to last month's general election, a crew from the road-construction company began to erect what residents have named a 'sound wall' that is blue in colour. But not only have they abruptly stopped the construction, they say the wall is woefully inadequate to block out the noise from vehicular use.

"It does not serve any purpose, and we don't trust the material it's made of; it does not look strong. It should also have extended all the way up to the corner of this section of the road and be high enough to deter the curious," Hall said.

 

BLINDING LIGHTS

 

She also said the blinding lights at nights from passing vehicles are a big problem for persons trying to sleep.

She said when the residents contacted the contractors, China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), they were told that some fast-growing trees and other greenery would be planted to cover the section that was built up where the 'sound barrier' stops. But the residents say they are sceptical, as they don't know of any trees that muffle the sounds of vehicles.

They are also upset about the main access road to the estate that was dug up during the construction of the highway. They say despite their complaints, there seems to be no hurry to repair it.

"When we asked CHEC, they said they did not use those roads and would only be fixing the areas they are responsible for," Hall shared.

"We were attracted to, and bought into, a nice, quiet country lifestyle, one with peace and tranquility. We would leave the hustle of the city and come home to a quiet life - certainly not this," Hall lamented.

barbara.ellington@gleanerjm.com