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LETTER OF THE DAY - Portmore can't bear another toll increase

Published:Thursday | June 19, 2014 | 12:00 AM

The Greater Portmore Joint Council hereby wishes to formally register its opposition to the impending hike in toll rates. Our membership is of the opinion that any adjustments to the existing rate, which is already a financial burden, will have a further significant negative impact on users of the road.

The vast majority of our residents are civil servants employed to the Government, and as a consequence, have not had a salary increase for the past few years. To now ask us to pay more in the existing economic condition is inconsiderate and insensitive. Since the opening of the toll road, we have always asked that before any adjustments to toll rates, there should be a public consultation, with the operators presenting their case for an increase on the respective legs of Highway 2000.

This public consultation would be similar to the format used by the Jamaica Public Service Company and the National Water Commission. This would facilitate public discussion regarding the operation of the toll road. From these discussions, the commuting public would be able to determine, given information presented, whether an upward adjustment of the toll rate is necessary. The Greater Portmore Joint Council would then be able to say whether - based on the usage level and related revenue - an increase, especially to the Portmore leg of Highway 2000, is justified. For too long the residents of Portmore, located in what I describe as a 'toll trap', have been exploited to be the proverbial cash cow for Highway 2000.

Any toll rate increase at this time would also wipe out any revenue that the Jamaica Urban Transit Company would have accumulated recently. The result would be to increase bus fare to the travelling public, which includes civil servants with frozen wages, a large number of unemployed youth, senior citizens, and members of the disabled community. Taking all things into consideration, rather than increasing the toll rate, the operators should be implementing strategies that would encourage users of the roadway to use the roadway more, especially during off-peak hours.

At the current toll rates, the average motorist who travels using Class I vehicles, paying a passing rate of $150 twice daily for five days a week for 50 weeks per year, pays a total of $75,000 per year, which is more than what homeowners pay per year to the National Housing Trust. This for a roadway that we can never hope to own. To ask the commuting public to pay a cent more is unreasonable.

Our political representatives must accept any fallout that results - long or short term - for the current or proposed toll rates. It was they who stood in opposition to citizen groups who opposed in principle issues regarding the toll road.