Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
The improved accessibility of Portmore from Kingston and vice-versa due to the toll road had largely stilled public debate about vehicular traffic flow between the place where many people who work in Kingston sleep and the place where many people who sleep in Portmore work.
However, the mysterious whiff of potential disaster which caused the toll road to be closed off for a few hours on Thursday has once again raised the question of just what would happen if a mass evacuation of the community is required. And let us not forget that while Portmore is the focal area of the housing stock in St Catherine, several developments further into the parish and Clarendon mean that more people have to use the same routes as those who live in the 'Sunshine City' - at the same work and school hours, too.
As if that is not enough, there is the new Caymanas housing development, which will bring even more traffic to the already pressured 'Mandela'.
So while the stories about persons requiring three and four hours to travel between Kingston and Portmore on Thursday evening are bemusing, it could have been - and could be - much, much worse. It would take only a combination of simple occurrences to create a traffic situation which leads to real mayhem.
For instance, if Thursday's whiff of danger had occurred when a hurricane was approaching, we shudder to think what could have happened, with so many motorists plodding away on Mandela Highway, moving a few inches at a time.
We cannot reverse time to chart Jamaica's development on a more physically equitable basis, where the near be all and end all of commercial life on the South Coast is not a city with two coastal access roads to its east and west. However, since we have permanently made Portmore and other plain areas in Clarendon and St Catherine dormitory communities for Kingston, we need to ensure that we are not making a potential bottleneck which will be all too easily plugged in the case of a disaster.
The last resort
The last resort that Automotives was told by at least one Portmore resident, of going to Sligoville from Red Hills Road and approaching Portmore from the Bog Walk Gorge, will simply not do.
Unless there is some miraculous traffic-flow solution, then the only alternative is the long-debated and considered extra road into Portmore - yes, yet another, has been planned, touted, resisted, supported and dismissed more times than beloved sprinter Asafa Powell's form has been assessed. It would not be a small road and the expenditure would naturally be huge, but the alternative - especially as the number of people 'cross the water' and points further west - increases of traffic coming to a standstill in an impending disaster is frightening.
Thursday's occurrence could just be a warning.