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On Wednesday June 11, 2008, Minister Joseph Hibbert made his first presentation in Parliament in his capacity as State Minister in the Ministry of Transport and Works. His presentation was extensive and addressed areas such as; Organizational Structure, Road Condition, Bridge Condition, Flood Control, Equipment Management, and Traffic Management among other issues.

Minister Hibbert spoke about the various changes that are to be made to current structure of the Ministry as it relates to its works portfolio. He said steps have been taken towards re-establishing the post of Chief Technical Director, after which discussions will be held to address the absence of the services of such professionals as an architect, commissioned land surveyor and quantity surveyor within the Ministry. These services are now contracted from private individuals. Additionally, a technical committee has been established with the Permanent Secretary of Transport and Works as chairman, to develop an organizational structure for a single road authority. The committee comprises Permanent Secretaries or nominees from the Ministries of Transport and Works, Agriculture, Water & Housing, Finance & Planning, National Security as well as the Office of the Prime Minister/Local Government, the Urban Development Corporation, the Attorney General’s Chambers and the National Water Commission.

With respect to road conditions and maintenance, Minister Hibbert told parliament that a Road Maintenance Master Plan has been developed through funding from European Union to ensure gradual improvement of the entire road network. This will see the upgrading arterial roads to motorway standards, secondary roads to arterial standards, tertiary roads to secondary standards and bridle paths to tertiary standards. The Minister spoke about plans to deal with the issue of over-laden vehicles. These vehicles cause major damage to the road surface and the Ministry has employed a weight limit enforcement programme which will see the establishment of fixed scale sites and roving mobile teams to weight trucks. The Minister took the opportunity to appeal to truck owners and operators to ensure that the loads they transport are within the legal limit to avoid what he termed ‘inevitable prosecution’ when caught.

Concerning the condition of bridges the House was informed thatfunds received from the Canadian government some years ago, was used to develop a system for assessing the condition of these structures and now two programmes are in place for replacement of eighteen (18) bridges island wide. Seven (7)of these are to be replaced under the Mabey and Johnson programme which began in Oct. 2002 and eleven (11) under the R.A. Murry programme which is slated to begin this year. A locally funded programme is proposed for the construction of 16 new bridges

It was also revealed that much work has been done in the area of flood control. Work was done on 109 meters of 300 critical meters of the Palisadoes Road. With the funding received from the Caribbean Development Bank the works is to be continued to prevent further erosion. Other areas selected for similar shoreline protection are section of Port Royal Street, Roselle in St. Thomas and Manchionel in Portland. Internal thorough fare slated for flood control works this financial year include section of Bog Walk Gorge, drainage works for Sour Sop Turn, Clarendon, the Yallahs to Easignton roadway St. Thomas and a new Bailey Bridge in Georgia, St. Thomas. Gabion, bunding and de-silting works are planned for other areas across the island; some these are:

  • Morant Johnson – St. Thomas
  • Rio Grande- Portland
  • Rio Minho – Clarendon
  • Outram- St. Mary
  • Riley River – Hanover
  • Negro River – St. Ann
  • Nine Miles Ten Miles St. Andrew/St. Thomas
  • Hope River – St. Andrew

The Ministry has been able to from agreements with a number of persons and organizations to clean several gullies across the island. The Ministry is working to bring the NWA’s fleet of equipment to a level that will make it possible to effectively respond to emergency situation. Funding has been provided and each parish will receive an allotment of equipment e.g. backhoes, tractor, front-end loaders.

Minister Hibbert was delighted to report on a “positive and pleasing aspect of the work of the NWA” which he acknowledged as coming from the previous administration. This has to do with the many initiatives that have unfolded, is unfolding and are on the drawing board with respect to traffic management in the Corporate area and includes:-

  • The inter-connecting of the traffic signals across the city to the Traffic Management Centre, within the NWA, from where engineers will be able to, eventually, remotely control the signals.
  • The gradual conversion of the traffic signal lights from incandescent bulbs to light emitting diodes
  • The establishment of wheelchair ramps at some very busy intersections such as entrance and exit points across most traffic signals in Half-Way Tree square.

The NWA is:

  • Seeking private sector support to have emergency power generation for the traffic signals for at least eight critical intersections in the city.
  • Examining the possibility of establishing pedestrian only movement at intervals in high-volume pedestrian traffic areas like sections of Half-Way Tree square.
  • Examining the establishing of Count Down traffic signals including audible signals. A Count Down signal is already in place at Constant Spring Road between the Half Way Tree Transport Centre and outside the Jamaica National building.

Furthermore, Minister Joseph Hibbert’s maiden sectorial presentation outlined other developments which the public can expect in the works portfolio of the Ministry.

Following roadways are schedule to be widened between this and next financial year.

  • Hagley Park Road
  • Washington Boulevard/Dunrobin Avenue
  • A section of Constant Spring Road
  • Shortwood Road
  • Old Hope Road from Cross Roads to Liguanea
  • Barbican Road/East Kings House rd/Lady Musgrave Road
  • At present Marcus Garvey Drive and Spanish Town Road are being widened

Outside of the corporate area there are plans for rural towns and the City of Montego Bay involving a comprehensive transport plan to be supported by various improvements along roadways. During this financial year the ministry will carry out a programme of road marking, including centre lines, pedestrian crossings and stop bars island-wide.