Smooth sailing on highway construction
Ryon Jones, Staff Reporter
It is all green lights for the remaining two phases of Highway 2000, as the National Road Operating and Constructing Company (NROC) says it has acquired all the land required to complete the project.
Section two of the highway, which runs from Linstead to Moneague, was completed in August while work has already started on sections one and three, which run from Caymanas to Linstead and Moneague to Ocho Rios, respectively. Both legs are slated to be open by January 2016.
The Government had budgeted approximately $2.7 billion for the acquisition of land to facilitate the construction, but only $710 million of that amount has been spent to date.
"There are approximately 400 properties that are going to be acquired for Section One and Section Three," managing director of NROC, Ivan Anderson, told The Sunday Gleaner.
"We have compulsorily acquired approximately 227 of them and the balance would be done by private treaty, where we come to an agreement with the owner and we have a trade agreement."
Compulsory acquisition comes into play when the owner of the land required for government construction is not available for one reason or another, or there is no title for the property to begin with.
"Even when somebody has died, for example, and there is no title for the land, if there is a person on the site then we would compensate that person for the building which they have on the land, so every person who has a building we have compensated," declared Anderson.
Negotiations and agreements
Where the owner of the land is identified, the Government engages them in negotiations and agreements for sales are signed, after which they are paid up to 70 per cent of the agreed price and the rest upon the completion of the transfer of the title.
According to Anderson, NROC has so far taken possession of approximately 95 per cent of the properties required for construction, with only lands at the start where the highway is to join the Mandela Highway left to be decided on.
"The only area we are still discussing is right at the start at Caymanas where you come out on to Mandela, and we expect that we will finalise that in the next two weeks or so," said Anderson.
"And this has nothing to do with ownership, but just how the actual physical connection is made and at what point.
"Whether we connect, for example, at the traffic lights at the Portmore turn-off, or whether we go a little further down by Ferry at the police station, or whether we go back a little closer to Spanish Town by the existing golf course road.
"Those are the three options we are looking at, so it is really a matter of the technical consideration of the connection, how that connection will impact on the rest of the network."
The Government will also have to eventually identify lands to hand over to the main contractor, China Harbour, to carry out developments along the highway to drive traffic to the road.
"That development land does not have to be provided until three years after the start of the concession, so that land is not being provided until they actually finish construction of the highway," said Anderson.