EYE ON Highway Developments: PM pitches Williamsfield to St Bess leg Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

The Government plans to extend the Southern Coastal Highway Improvement Project (SCHIP) further westward from Williamsfield in Manchester to Hodges in St Elizabeth.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who made the disclosure in his contribution to the 2023-2024 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives on Thursday, said the scope of the project includes improvements to the existing road infrastructure, as well as putting in bypass roads for Mandeville, Spur Tree, Junction, Southfield and Black River.

“These bypasses are necessary to ensure that we do not create bottlenecks, which impede the flow of traffic and defeat the purpose of building the highway,” he said.

He noted that work on the current segment of the highway, from May Pen to Williamsfield, is 90 per cent complete, and is set to open in August.

On completion, the highway will be the property of the Government of Jamaica, for which an operating concession will be negotiated.

The May Pen to Williamsfield segment involves constructing approximately 23 kilometres of a four-lane highway and upgrading approximately five kilometres of the existing Melrose Hill Bypass to a four-lane rural arterial divided highway.

The SCHIP is being executed by the National Road Operating and Constructing Company Limited (NROCC), which is also undertaking construction of the US$274.5 million Montego Bay Perimeter Road in St James.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness making his Budget presentation in Parliament last Friday.

The St James project, for which ground was broken in July 2022, includes the perimeter road, Long Hill bypass, upgrade of West Green Avenue and Barnett Street, and a drainage study of the Montego Bay area.

Work on the project is scheduled to start in July after the one-year design phase.

“Citizens will see construction activities ramped up during the first quarter of financial year 2023-2024,” the prime minister said.

Pre-construction work already undertaken includes surveying, soil testing, design, provisions for a batching plant, and land acquisition.

Turning to other road projects, the prime minister said work is to begin shortly for a full grade-separated interchange between the North-South Highway and the East-West Highway in the Caymanas vicinity in St Catherine.

Pre-construction works are slated for 2023-2024.

“This is just one step in the long-term plan to build out a fully connected road network across Jamaica that allows users to move seamlessly across the island,” the prime minister said.

Turning to the North Coast Highway, Holness said based on the most recent traffic numbers, several areas along the highway have already exceeded the 15,000 vehicles per day threshold which was contemplated in the original traffic studies, resulting in growing congestion.

He said the Sea Castles to Greenwood corridor has the largest capacity deficit, and improving this corridor to four lanes would allow for an increase in the daily capacity to approximately 39,800 vehicles.

He said the corridor does not have any major geometric constraints to improving the existing alignment.

In relation to the Discovery Bay to Salem segment, the Prime Minister said there are several entry and exit points, and encroachments and limited reservations, that constrain capacity and the potential for widening the corridor to four lanes, resulting in a bypass option being considered.