Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Letter of the Day: Choked Mandela merits lawsuit claim

Published:Wednesday | April 13, 2016 | 4:00 AM
Traffic was bumper to bumper on Monday morning as motor vehicles exiting Highway 2000 merge with a choked Mandela Highway in St Catherine.

THE EDITOR, Sir:

I note the photo on Page A3 of The Gleaner of April 12, 2016, of a solid line of cars along Mandela Highway being joined by an equally solid line exiting Highway 2000.

It was, and is, more recently, blatantly obvious that the carrying capacity of the highway has been exceeded. In the years just after Highway 2000 was opened to traffic, during the Jamaica Institution of Engineers' Engineers Week, the current chairman of the National Road Operating and Constructing Company, Ivan Anderson, was expounding on the benefits of Highway 2000. During the question-and-answer period afterwards, I asked him what percentage of the capacity of Mandela Highway was in use just prior to the opening of the new highway. He replied that it was 80 per cent.

It would be obvious to anyone that steady growth in traffic over the years, exacerbated by the fact that Mandela Highway is a practical choke point for all traffic from the west, including Portmore, would shortly lead to the exceeding of the rated capacity of Mandela.

The previous government saw fit to enter into contracts with the French to create a toll highway from the west and then a short toll road between Portmore and Kingston, with clauses in the Highway 2000 to prevent the upgrading of the capacity of Mandela Highway. That was idiotic. Furthermore, the French built an overpass for traffic exiting the toll road right up to the four-lane free to traffic, Mandela Highway, so that later expansion by widening of the roadway could not occur. Madness.

There is a way out, and it is this: Given that the Mandela Highway is the 'alternative' route to the Portmore, people who do not wish to use the toll road to Kingston must bring a lawsuit. Legally, 'alternative' must mean 'viable alternative', and if the capacity of Mandela is exceeded (as is obvious, and verifiable), the 'no upgrade' clauses come into conflict with the 'alternative' route clause of the contract.

This contract cannot contradict itself, and if the people of Portmore bring a lawsuit, I am sure that the courts will void the 'no upgrade' clauses and permit measures to improve the capacity of Mandela until it again becomes the viable 'alternative' route. Mr Shaw was right to say that it was a bad agreement.

HOWARD CHIN

Member, Jamaica Institution of Engineers