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Tweak Tragarete traffic test
On balance, Minister of Works and Infrastructure Emmanuel George should count the first week of the new traffic plan for Woodbrook and St James as a success, but it’s one qualified by issues that need considered attention. The conversation about changing Tragarete Road and Ariapita Avenue into one-way traffic conduits into and out of Port-of-Spain began early in the year, with announcements by the Works Ministry, which were quickly endorsed by Mayor Louis Lee Sing, one of the first high-profile stakeholders to give his approval for the project.
Just a week before the implementation date, the one-way route heading west was extended from Port-of-Spain to St James, effectively turning the roadway, from Tragarete Road to the Western Main Road, just short of the St James Oncology Centre, into a four-lane highway.
The Works Minister shouldn’t be tempted to settle for the early wins on this project. There remain many critical issues that demand remedy from professional traffic analysts. Existing traffic lights along the route might prove to be useful, with the addition of zebra crossings. That’s an issue that arose early in St James, as vehicles are moving along the Western Main Road at a much faster clip than usual.
Parking, identified as part of the plan’s management targets, remains a confusing matter and there are parts of St James where confusion about parking regulations have artificially narrowed four lanes to two. In St James and on Ariapita Avenue in particular, the Works Ministry might consider limiting parking to one side of the road and using parking meters to ensure that access to such prime spaces is time regulated.
Another critical issue for the ministry is making sense of access to public transportation, which has befuddled many travellers looking for a taxi or bus along these transportation arteries. If the challenges of preparing for the massive change seemed daunting, then implementing running repairs to the system will surely place even greater demands on the skill set of the designers of the new traffic plan.
There’s little that the ministry’s planners can do about reports of slow sales in St James or the muscle memory of drivers who have travelled the route for years, as the functional efficiencies in the traffic design have brought us to a place of quite pleasant promise as the impact of the change becomes more evident. Director of Highways Roger Ganesh appealed to the public to give the plan time to work and it’s a call worth supporting.
Despite the early objections, Minister George and Mayor Lee Sing should not falter in their determination to ensure that this project lives up to its promise to alleviate the traffic that has frustrated travellers between the western suburbs and Port-of-Spain.
Their next priorities should be to make getting access to public transport easier along the refreshed routes, and designing mechanisms and access points to ensure public safety when crossing these roadways, in advance of the resumption of the next school term.
For those still in shock about the change, one such radical change that’s since settled in to become a new status quo was the change of traffic flow around the Queen’s Park Savannah from two-way to one-way. Today, on the rare occasions that the north end of the Savannah is changed back to two-way traffic, usually at Carnival, confusion inevitably accompanies the change. Yesterday’s confusion can become tomorrow’s normal if the plan is well executed and the public has the patience and will to adjust.
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