Williamsfield leg of Highway 2000 on hold
Highway 2000 will not be extending into Williamsfield anytime soon.
Dr Omar Davies, the minister of transport, works and housing, said on Wednesday that the developers of the highway have decided it would not make economic sense to build out the road which would see the current segment, which ends at May Pen in Clarendon, be extended further into central Jamaica.
Highway 2000, Jamaica's first tolled highway, stretches from Caymanas in St Catherine to May Pen, Clarendon. It consists of 46 kilometres, the last segment of which was completed in 2012, extending the road by 10.5 kilometres from Sandy Bay to May Pen in 2012.
A further 27.2 kilometres would take the highway from May Pen to Williamsfield, but Davies said China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), which has the right of first refusal to the project, is not interested at this point.
"The Chinese have the option, but (in) my last conversation with them, (what they have said) is that the traffic count will not justify that expenditure," Davies said during the sitting of the Standing Finance Committee of Parliament.
"The extension (from) Sandy Bay to the Rio Minho, that was not and is not a profitable investment and CHEC, although having the option to go from that bridge to Williamsfield, is not inclined to take on that project," he added.
The minister added that as it relates to the extension of the road into Williamsfield, "that's not on".
"The Government of Jamaica cannot subsidise it and CHEC has indicated that the traffic count (is low) and TransJamaica Highway will tell you that the last extension is losing money," Davies said.
But Central Clarendon MP Mike Henry, in advocating for the extension to take place in order to open up Vernamfield, said the roads and the extensions are meant to bring development.
NOT MAKING ANY MONEY
He said that the bridge at Rio Minho is needed to "speed up the connection between Vernamfield" and the current highway.
"All of the road network losing, none of them are not making money. That is why the tolls have had to be increased," Henry said.
Highway 2000 is the centrepiece of the Millennium Projects Programme announced by then Prime Minister P.J. Patterson in September 1999.
The Millennium Projects include the establishment of a new population centre in mid-island, a sports complex and Vernamfield as a major cargo facility.
Loven McCook, president of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce & Industry, said the announcement of the highway being put on hold was a big disappointment for the business community.
"This is a big hit for us, this can't be good news for the people of Manchester," McCook told The Gleaner.
"We were looking forward to the highway to assist in improving business in the area," he said.
McCook said the extension of the highway into Williamsfield would have reduced travelling time into Clarendon and Kingston, adding that the traffic situation was very bad at times due to congestion.
"You are talking about people moving in and out of the parish, transportation of products into the parish, transportation of agricultural goods out of the parish. The highway would have really improved the travel situation and make it more economical to travel," he said.