The long road home - Silver Gap alternative to closed Gordon Town route is six times the journey
A homeward journey that would normally take Georgia Trieb 35 minutes to Mavis Bank, St Andrew, now lasts her almost three hours - or equivalent to a trip from Kingston in the east to Montego Bay in the west.
She is one of hundreds of residents who use the now-condemned Gordon Town main road, imperilled by a breakaway near Stand Up Hill that has threatened commuter safety after weeks of floods and landslides.
Trieb and others now face the daunting prospect of having to spend thousands of dollars for extensive repairs to their motor vehicles and to fill up their tanks after the road was ordered closed by the National Works Agency (NWA).
Now they have been instructed to negotiate the alternative Irish Town or Newcastle road that passes through Silver Hill Gap, Content, and Guava Ridge.
But that route offers a long, narrow and winding journey round and round the Blue Mountains, through potholes and muddy tracks.
Going uphill, Trieb has had to top up her petrol significantly to make the trip home in her Suzuki SUV. The unwieldy alternative has been a source of great inconvenience.
“I went down on Monday and because it didn’t make sense to traverse every day, I stayed with a friend, and I am just going back up because the alternate route was arranged ... . Without a four-wheel drive, I would not recommend that road. It is very hard,” she told The Gleaner.
Treib’s distress mirrors Hoover Harris’.
Harris, who lives in Quashie Gap, beyond Newcastle, owns a shop and is also a driver for the City of Refuge Children’s Home, located in Content Gap.
The displacement caused by the closure of the Gordon Town main road has also forced him to endure the long, painful journey to Papine to buy stock for his business. His usual 30-minute travel time now eclipses two hours.
“I work at a children’s home, too, and it is very difficult, because even when a kid is sick, you have to travel all the way around for that kid to go to doctor,” said Harris.
The Savage Pen road is being eyed as a compromise route for residents, but Harris is wary of the danger posed by its frightening slope.
“The Savage Pen route, I don’t go there, but everybody [who] go there seh dem not driving back there because it too steep. The way it steep, it even give vehicles with four-wheel drive problem,” the shopkeeper told The Gleaner.
NWA Communication and Customer Services Manager Stephen Shaw acknowledged on Monday that the 1.6-kilometre-long Savage Pen road requires extensive intervention because of its hilly terrain and encroachments, such as buildings and abandoned vehicles.
Shaw said, in a media statement, that the NWA was in the process of acquiring larger heavy equipment, including excavators and bull-dozers, to clear the corridor for two-lane traffic. That work should take three weeks to be completed.
Another woman who operates a cookshop below Content Gap said she was annoyed at “the stress” caused by the dislocation. The deliveryman who usually transports bags of chicken to her has decided that the terrible road conditions are not worth the additional $200 he charges per unit.
The costs to travel along the treacherous Stand Up Hill breakaway to Papine range from $1,000 to $1,500 per trip.
“You nuh affi call nobody. Dem come a di brukweh and a escort dem across. We have to pay a lot to get goods to come this side,” she said.