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Roadwork sparks fears - Greenwich Farm residents concerned ahead of widening of Marcus Garvey Drive

Published:Wednesday | December 28, 2016 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell
Delroy Clarke points out an area of concern along Marcus Garvey Drive in Kingston.
Residents of Greenwich Farm say First Avenue, off Marcus Garvey Drive in Kingston, could be flooded out during heavy rain after the completion of roadworks there.
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Three months before the widening and upgrading of a 2.4 kilometre section of Marcus Garvey Drive, residents of Greenwich Farm, a community which the road passes, are demanding that an overhead pedestrian crossing be part of the project, apparently lacking faith in the efficacy of the more than half dozen control lights planned for the roadway.

A pedestrian bridge is not part of the J$2.5-billion project, which includes raising sections of the road and widening from four to six lanes, according to Stephen Shaw, manager of communication and customer services at the National Works Agency (NWA), the government entity that oversees the Government's infrastructure projects.

"What is provided for is that there are seven intersections that are going to be signalised and provided for with pedestrian facilities - a push button system - so that residents can get across the road in a safe way," Shaw said.

But several residents with whom The Gleaner spoke yesterday said that having witnessed many collisions along the 4.93-kilometre road over the years, they remain unimpressed by the planned use of traffic lights as a solution to their safety concerns.

"A whole heap a people dead out [here]," said Delroy Clarke, 73, a long-time Greenwich Farm resident, who said he crosses Marcus Garvey Drive daily and has been the victim of a collision.

Motor vehicles tend to go too fast on the road, said Clarke, who rides a bicycle. He fears that motorists will be tempted to be even more reckless on the upgraded road.

Marcus Garvey Drive is the main route into and out of Kingston's ports, home to many industrial and manufacturing farms, and a key artery from St Catherine to downtown Kingston. An estimated 40,000 vehicles use the road daily and traffic is often snarled during morning and evening peak hours.

Government officials, at the start of the 12-month upgrading project, estimated it would lead to a 30 per cent improvement in travel time along Marcus Garvey. So, not only will the roadway be able to accommodate more vehicles, but what, in the past, might have been a 20-minute journey along the road will be less than 15.

Once traffic signals are properly used, Shaw feels, this increase in traffic flow shouldn't be problematic.

"The problem we have in Jamaica is that we put in the system and people don't use them as they were designed to be used," he said. "They dash across the road, ignorant of that which we have provided."'

For Danessia Davis, another Greenwich Farm resident, her major concern is the quality of the sidewalks to be built along the widened roadway and the protection they will have. She wants them to have guard rails, especially in the area of the Western United Basic School, which is on Marcus Garvey Drive.

She is also worried about the drainage systems, especially after the major flooding in her community and surrounding areas earlier this year in the wake of torrential rains, whose storm waters couldn't be contained by the existing system.

With regard to the matter of sidewalks, Shaw said the NWA's standard was that they be built a minimum of four feet wide to accommodate two or three persons walking abreast.

In this case, he said, the sidewalks would be significantly higher than the roadway.

"There should be no major issue with persons accessing a proper sidewalk," he said.

The project also calls for proper drains.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com