Sat | Aug 19, 2017

The new highway - Stifling some opportunities, bringing new ones

Published:Saturday | August 23, 2014 | 8:00 AM
A section of the Linstead to Moneague leg of the North/South highway.
Jerome (right) and Oshane (third from left) and two other youngsters at the Moneague roundabout.-PHOTOS BY CARL GILCHRIST
A deserted Faith's Pen on Monday.
Cassius Gayle, vendor at Faith's Pen Rest Stop.
Hope, a roadside vendor.
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Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer

MONEAGUE, St Ann:VENDORS ARE still upset with the Portia Simpson Miller-led administration for the timing of the opening of the Linstead to Moneague leg of the North-South highway.

On the other hand, new opportunities have presented themselves with the opening of the highway leg just over two weeks ago.

When Rural Xpress arrived at the Faith's Pen Rest Stop on Monday, the place was deserted.

"Nuttn nah gwaan, Government nuh keep fi dem part ah di deal," said one vendor who refrained from giving his name, but referred to the shop name, Cherry's One Stop.

"Dem say when the first leg of the highway open, dem would a build some shops and dem would a ready. Then, them come back and change and seh we have to wait until 2016," he stated.

Cassius Gayle, who spoke to The Gleaner prior to the opening of the roadway, said on Monday that sales had, predictably, dropped since the opening.

"It has had a mighty impact on the business, the pass-by sales, because people are no longer coming this way because it's free (on the highway), Gayle said. "We have seen a significant change in direction of the traffic so far. However, we're still seeing some customers coming through."

But unlike in June when he predicted devastation for the vendors, Gayle was more optimistic this time around. He said the new challenge has presented an opportunity to do things a bit differently at the rest stop.

"We are going to look at doing some marketing, doing some commercials, having appreciation days, working on restructuring our pricing and offering specials and deals, offering specials to trips coming this way, lunch specials for kids going this way; jerk chicken specials, jerk pork special, group rates and so on," Gayle explained.

"We're also going to be reaching out to different companies to see if we can get some people coming in. And we're still working with the tourism board (Jamaica Tourist Board) to see if we can get something from that end also," he added.

The opening of the new roadway has also presented opportunities for youngsters to earn an income, honestly.

At the roundabout in Moneague where vehicles enter the highway, a group of youngsters has started selling items, such as jelly, chewing gum, pear, banana chips, and soda, in order to earn an income.

One of the young men, Jerome, said he is unemployed and that is why he is putting out the effort to earn an income.

"Wi did a gwaan do little construction work sometime, an' if wi get a work pon a truck, wi go pon it an' gwaan juggle," he explained. "Right now dis is a big opportunity fi me," he said of the makeshift stall they have erected.

"We need some help an' we naw get it, so we hav fi help we self."

But with the opportunity comes challenges, according to one of the youngsters, Oshane, who voiced obvious concern about the location.

"We get opportunity, yes, but we a get a fight by the cops. But we nuh have a better alternative," Oshane said. "Everything else we try, we fail. Right now, we see where we a pick up, but we only want some more vacancy (space) fi do wi ting."

a worthwhile purpose

He said they have also been serving a worthwhile purpose for motorists as the lack of proper signage has made life difficult for some motorists.

"Every minute we haffi a ansa questions, lots of people a get lost. So is a good ting we out yah, otherwise a lot more people would a get lost. We want them put up some more sign," Oshane said.

The fruit vendors in Faith's Pen say they are struggling to make ends meet.

"We are not selling anything," complained Hilsa Brown, a pineapple seller in Faith's Pen.

"This is the time I look forward for my child, to sell to pay her school fee, buy her books because she is now going into Grade 11. I was looking forward to make that money on Independence Day and see if I could save some money to pay for her CXC and I don't sell anything.

"As the prime minister knows, on Independence Day the buses pass and everybody out by Faith's Pen get their little sale. I believe they should not have opened the road on August 5th because for us, it's a good business time of the year. I am very, very disappointed with the Government," Brown contends.

Another vendor who gave her name as Hope and sells fruits that are in season, including pineapple, mango, soursop, and melon, had the same complaint.

"Bwoy it rough," Hope said. "Mi a pray fi sell suppm fi see if mi can go buy two bag fi dem tomorrow ah Linstead." She was referring to her two nieces who were with her.

rural@gleanerjm.com