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HALF WAY TREE TRANSPORT CENTRE OPENED

Minister Mike Henry addressing the audience at the ceremony

Amongst much fanfare, the Half Way Tree Transport Centre was opened on Saturday, January 12, 2008.

Prime Minister Bruce Golding who gave the keynote address at the opening used the opportunity to announce that he would be meeting with Belgian investors to begin talks for another major development in the Half Way Tree area to complement the new Half Way Tree Transport Centre.

PM Bruce Golding (left) and Mayor Desmond McKenzie unveil the plaque at the opening of the Centre

"We are going to be doing more for Half Way Tree because we recognise the importance of it," the Prime Minister said.

"There is more that can be done and needs to be done to make Half Way Tree a modern 21st century urban setting with services being offered in a variety of areas," Mr. Golding announced.

Turning to the JUTC and its use of the Centre, the PM said, 'as of right now, we are operating with more than 100 buses from the fleet that are out of commission and we will have to build that fleet back up to the capacity that we need in order to provide adequate seats."

Continuing, the Prime Minister highlighted the need for the government's intervention in addressing the traffic congestion problem in the Kingston Metropolitan Area (KMR)."The nature of the traffic congestion in the Corporate Area is something that is going to undermine our efforts at efficiency and productivity and it is something that will have to be addressed." In that respect, he has requested that a proposal be brought to Cabinet on how best to deal with the traffic flow in Kingston and its environs.

Mr. Golding thanked the previous PNP administration under whose watch the project was conceptualised and who secured the financing and was responsible for most of its construction. He also thanked the Belgian government for the part they played in making the Centre a reality. He highlighted the favourable financial terms under which the Centre was constructed citing the 80% of the 54 million Euros loan being made available free of interest as a magnanimous gesture. The remaining 20% of the loan will be at a concessionary rate of 4.3%. Repayment will be over a 10 year period at six monthly intervals.

Also speaking at the ceremony was Belgian Ambassador to Jamaica, Mr. Herman Portocarero. He hailed the workers from both Jamaica and Belgium who, he said, 'made the site incident and accident free." He noted that this was only possible because of the collective efforts of everyone involved from the start.

For his part, Transport and Works Minister, Mike Henry also thanked the previous administration for the part they played in bringing the project to fruition.

He spoke extensively about measures to be implemented to ease and improve the general flow of traffic within the city. He noted that surveys will be used to determine the extent of additions of physical lane capacity and improvement of critical intersections this year. In this respect, he explained, ongoing surveys are being conducted along several other main corridors such as Molynes Road, Red Hills Road, Hagley Park Road, East Kings House Road, Lady Musgrave Road and Constant Spring Road between Dunrobin Avenue and Manor Park.

Also speaking at the ceremony was former Transport and Works Minister Robert Pickersgill who deputised for Leader of the Opposition, Mrs. Portia Simpson-Miller. He spoke of his administration's commitment to bettering the lot of the travelling public hence the erection of the Transport Centre. He used the opportunity to thank the various stakeholders, many of whom he worked with closely, who worked to make the Centre a reality. He appealed to the travelling public to take care of the facility as it belonged to all who will use it. He said that the construction of the Centre represented a 'sound marriage of private/public sector partnership which can only redound to the benefit of all Jamaicans."

Entertainment for the ceremony was provided by Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, 'One Third', Half Way Tree Primary School and Sister Marie.