Traffic chaos to greet new school term
The parents of an infant and twin toddlers are among hundreds of commuters bracing themselves ahead of tomorrow's reopening of schools for what was always a tedious journey along Marcus Garvey Drive and Mandela Highway during peak hours, but will now be amplified by roadworks taking place on both major thoroughfares.
Work commenced on Marcus Garvey Drive, Kingston, in April and is scheduled to run for 12 months, as the road is being widened from four to six lanes. To facilitate the project, a one-way system has been implemented for morning peak hours, allowing only traffic heading in an easterly direction (from toll road and Three Miles) and the reverse during afternoon peak hours.
The widening of the Mandela Highway got under way yesterday, just in time for the start of the new school year, and is slated to take 24 months to complete. Work is being undertaken to create six lanes, a service road to facilitate businesses along the northern side of the carriageway, construction of an overpass bridge, and significant drainage improvement works.
Donique and Sarah Lynch, like many others, are dreading the likely increase in traffic during their morning commute into Kingston along the Mandela Highway - which features an exclusively Jamaica Urban Transit Company bus lane between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. on weekdays.
"I normally try to leave by 6 (a.m.), as I don't make 6:15 catch me in my place. But if construction taking place on Mandela Highway, we are going to have to leave out by 5:30 (a.m.)," Sarah told The Sunday Gleaner.
"We have three children - one attends Bridgeport Infant and the twins attend New Haven Early Childhood Centre - and we are going to have to wake them up from 4:30 to get them ready to leave out earlier."
But leaving out earlier poses another challenge for the couple, as there will be no one at school to accept the children so early.
"It is going to cause a lot of difficulty. We are going to have to get somebody to keep them, and when school open they carry them over," Donique said. "So we are going to have to pay at least another $500 per day."
Senior citizen Charlton Mitchell said he was involved in an accident, which was as a direct result of the work being undertaken on Marcus Garvey Drive. So while he welcomes the improvements, he plans to do all he can to avoid the two thoroughfares altogether during weekdays.
"I welcome it (roadwork), because I can see the congestion in the peak hours, but I had an accident three months ago, as the guy was gazing on the construction and hit the side of my car. So it has scared me from driving on the road while it is being repaired," 73-year-old Mitchell shared.
"I am an elderly person and I am a businessman, so if the construction is going to take six months or a year, I am going to have to find a family member to stay over with in Kingston, and on weekends I go over, as I really can't make it in the traffic in the mornings."
Manager, communication and customer services at the National Works Agency, Stephen Shaw, pointed out that commuters will still have four lanes accessible to them on Mandela Highway, but anticipates that delays might result from curiosity.
"I think the challenge will come not so much from the work impacting the carriageway; it will be more at this point based on curiosity of persons travelling along the corridor," Shaw said, while conceding that delays on Marcus Garvey Drive is a genuine possibility.
"Yes, we may very well have that kind of situation (delays), but what we are trying to do is see how best we can minimise these occurrences. I cannot say that it will not happen, based on experience."
Shaw is imploring persons to exercise caution, patience and understanding while using the roads, as "no good thing happens without some amount of challenge or discomfort".