Gov't urged to reject toll increase
A group of self-styled stakeholders from the Old Fort Bay community in St Ann has written to the Toll Authority, saying that the proposed rate increases for the North-South Highway should not be granted until alleged environmental breaches by the developers have been addressed.
The group made its submissions to the authority, which has invited the public to submit views on the advertised rates which could take effect on September 3.
"The contractor, China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), displayed scant regards for the terms and conditions of their permits and the mitigation measures outlined in the environment impact assessment," the group wrote.
"In Old Fort Bay, there are serious and ongoing impacts to the marine environment because of the situation from the new highway. Every time it rains, silt washes into the sea, turning the water muddy, dumping silt and garbage on the beach, the seagrass beds and the coral reefs," the group added.
"We feel that the Jamaican Government should send a strong signal to the developer of the highway."
The National Council of Taxi Associations has also said it is against any increase in toll rates.
The group's president, Deon Chance, told The Gleaner that he could not deny the benefit of the highway, but said the Government and toll operators should note that with a hike in toll rates, it could cost motorists less to take the longer route.
Mike Henry, transport minister, said on August 24 that the request for an increase "at this time is partly driven by the Consumer Price Index, slippage in the value of the Jamaican dollar, and the fact that the projected traffic volume has not materialised".
But in a statement a day later, Henry said "motorists will not be faced with an increase in toll rates come September 3".
According to him, "there are unresolved issues relating to the operations of the toll road" and, until the issues are amicably resolved, he would not approve an increase in the toll rates.
If the increases are approved, some motorists could pay up to $490 more to travel the Caymanas to Mammee Bay leg of the highway, which runs from St Catherine to St Ann.
The public has until Tuesday to respond to the proposed rates.