That Mandela parking lot
'The more things change, the more they remain the same' is a truism in Jamaica. Let's recall the transportation woes in the early 1990s between St Catherine and Kingston. Fast-forward to 2015.
There is now Highway 2000, a development intended to make it easier to commute and help to boost productivity. But sadly, we are losing the gains. Why? The many new housing developments located in St Catherine and Clarendon, with residents who commute to work in Kingston, have made the Mandela Highway a bottleneck.
Commuting through St Catherine into Kingston at peak hours has become an expensive, time-wasting feat because exiting the toll road (and other roads) to the Mandela Highway is a major problem. The commuters coming through Central Village, already on the 'snail trail', share a similar plight. They may be a little better off because they do not pay $330 or $120, but we all share the petrol waste and frustration.
In the evenings, driving from the Washington Boulevard and Spanish Town Road on to Mandela Highway can be equally frustrating but may not always be as bad as in the mornings.
I use the toll road daily to get to work. It is now taking anywhere between 20 and 40 minutes to exit the toll road on to the Mandela Highway. Once you creep to Mandela; it takes another 15 to 20-minute crawl to Six Miles. This situation is worsened by pedestrians and students crossing to and from the Jamaica Urban Transit Company bus lane, which also merges further along the thoroughfare.
How productive and energy-
efficient can we be if thousands of people who have to commute daily have to sit for hours on the highways between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.? All the billions of dollars spent on the highways are wasted if one is able to travel from Old Harbour 15 minutes or from Moneague in 20 minutes, only to sit for another half-hour waiting to exit on to the Mandela Highway. It would no doubt be worse without Highway 2000, but progress includes long-term infrastructure planning.
With the situation as it is, I was horrified when I read a statement from the National Road Operating and Constructing Company (NROCC) in which I learned that the next phase of Highway 2000 will possibly join the Mandela Highway somewhere in the vicinity of the Caymanas Estate or Portmore intersections. What will traffic be like when this happens?
"The Mandela Highway is a mass parking lot at peak hours," someone wrote recently. I want to ask the Ministry of Transport, Works & Housing and NROCC: What are the plans to upgrade the roller-coaster obstacle course that unfortunately bears the great Nelson Mandela's name? (I do not mean the irregular patching that results in the description above).
Second, won't the traffic be worse when the southbound leg of the North South Highway hits the Mandela Highway? Can it be widened to three lanes (east and west) to better allow easier merging from the highways?
The Government and its technocrats must look for a solution to this problem if we are serious about Vision 2030.