Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Consideration to increase speed limit on North-South Highway

Published:Tuesday | May 9, 2017 | 5:00 AM
A section of the North-South Highway showing the 80km/h speed limit.
Another section of Highway 2000 showing the 110km/h speed limit.
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The authorities are considering increasing the speed limit on a section of the North-South Highway that runs from Caymanas in St Catherine to Mammee Bay in St Ann, bowing to the clamour from some motorists who questioned the 80km/h limit for most of the roadway.

But at the same time, the National Road Operating and Constructing Company (NROCC), which oversees the Highway 2000 project on behalf of the Government, is being urged to tell the public that speed limits have "significant" impacts on the cost of building modern roadways.

Member of Parliament (MP) for Kingston Eastern and Port Royal, Phillip Paulwell, last week raised the issue with NROCC's managing director, Ivan Anderson, who was appearing before Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC).

"There's a feeling," the MP said, "that there are areas along the North-South Highway where motorists could go a little faster. We do have some police who are strategically placed right after you pass the 80km/h. [But] there are portions of the roadway, I believe, that could enhance its efficiency by enabling a faster speed."

That's when Anderson revealed that an adjustment upwards was being contemplated for the section of the 66-kilometre roadway that runs near Wakefield. But he insisted that the standard NROCC adopted has to be adhered to.

 

STOPPING SIGHT DISTANCES

 

The highway was designed using the specifications by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. Under those guidelines, speed limits are set based on what is called stopping sight distances, which, according to Anderson, means "how far ahead you can see at any moment in time."

"All the curves are designed so that you can see a minimum of about 120 metres ahead of you, which means that if there's an object on the road, and you're travelling at 80km/h you should be able to stop before you get to that object. That's how the whole highway has been designed," he shared.

But motorists like Paulwell, who want to go faster, could get what they want.

"We may be able to make some adjustment, for example, in the Wakefield area when you come down off the hill, going to Bog Walk. We're looking at that to see whether we can increase the speed limit in that area," Anderson said.

At 110km/h, the speed limit on the Mandela to May Pen leg of Highway 2000 is higher. But, there's a reason for that, Anderson explained: "The highway is much straighter, so you have much, much further stopping sight distances. You can see much further ahead and, therefore, you can stop if there's a problem because you have that greater distance."

PAAC member Fitz Jackson said he was "struck" that the North-South Highway was designed not to drive beyond 80km/h, but the NROCC head said that would have cost "significantly" more than the US$720 million it took to build.

"In public education, we should make that point that the limit is because of a design standard that contains the cost of realising the project," Jackson suggested.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com