Fri | Jun 2, 2023

‘Total foolishness!’

St Thomas residents fed up with the way roadwork being executed

Published:Thursday | January 27, 2022 | 12:06 AMShanna Monteith/Gleaner Writer
In this April 2021 file photo, a construction crew is seen carrying out work on the Southern Coastal Highway Improvement Project in St Thomas.
In this April 2021 file photo, a construction crew is seen carrying out work on the Southern Coastal Highway Improvement Project in St Thomas.

Stakeholders in St Thomas are at their wits’ end with what they describe as the inefficient way in which the works on the Southern Coastal Highway Improvement Project (SCHIP) is being executed.

Among those who have raised concerns are taxi operators, business owners and personnel of the parish’s municipal corporation, who said they have been grappling with extensive delays due to unusual traffic build-up in the parish and the lack of regard being shown by the construction workers.

“I did Level 2 construction at HEART and after you work, you’re supposed to do housekeeping – clean up. If they had proper supervision, they wouldn’t be doing the foolishness that they are there doing on the road,” Louis Millwood, president of the St Thomas Taxi Association, said as he bemoaned the reason behind much of the delays.

Millwood argued that taxi operators have been incurring significant expenses since the start of the project some two years ago, with the frequent need to replace car parts damaged by the worsening roadway.

“It’s unfair. Who is going to compensate them for all of this mishap? It is very hard for them right now because every week, gas [prices] raise and this road infrastructure that they are driving on right now is ridiculous. We are happy for the road improvement in the parish, but not in the manner in which it is being done. … It’s total foolishness!” he told The Gleaner.

Equally annoyed is Morant Bay Councillor Rohan Bryan, who, while expressing gratitude for the improvement of St Thomas’ major thoroughfares, pointed to a need for more safety signs as the construction continues.

According to him, “There’s no proper signage to guide motorists. So them (work crew) dig a hole, same way dem just bank it up on the road – accidents waiting to happen. They don’t care or respect the people of St Thomas. I’m starting to wonder if the contractors know anything about roadwork because what we are getting is garbage.”

Bryan also complained that the flagmen and tractor operators were not coordinating well enough to ease the flow of traffic.

“The two of them telling you to go at the same time and then that cause even more traffic jam. The people with the equipment just cross the road with the machine at any time and you have to just wait on them before the traffic flows again. It bothers me a lot,” he said.

Acknowledging the concerns raised by the stakeholders, National Works Agency CEO E.G. Hunter pleaded for patience during major projects such as SCHIP, sections of which are slated for completion later this year.

“We have the duty to ensure that the project is implemented in the most efficient way and at the least discomfort to the public. However, coexistence is something that is important. The project has to be done and people want to go about their business so there has to be give and take on both sides,” he said.

Sharing that the agency is doing all it can to improve the experience, Hunter noted that there is also to be expected a reasonable level of discomfort associated with the implementation of such projects.

He told The Gleaner that the necessary signs would be installed in short order.