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Highway extension project sparks concerns
Works Minister Emmanuel George has told Diego Martin residents his ministry doesn't have all the answers to their questions on the construction plans for the extension of the Diego Martin Highway, but they should give it a chance and see how it works. He was responding to the concerns of residents at a public meeting on the Highway Expansion Programme at the Diego Martin Central Community Centre at Jasper Avenue, Diamond Vale, Tuesday evening.
The public presentation had been postponed because of an electricity blackout on January 8. What created the loudest uproar among the affected residents were the proposed plans for traffic lights at the Four Roads intersection and cutting off the current access roads to West Mall, Westmoorings and Starlite Shopping Centre.
They said most vociferously during the question-and-answer session that both National Infrastructure Development Company Ltd (Nidco) projects would create a traffic nightmare for the residents. In order for the residents to go to West Mall or Starlite Shopping Plaza when the new highway plan is implemented, they would have to leave Diego Martin and take a long circuitous route, driving down to the Mucurapo Foreshore and turning back near Peake’s in Cocorite.
“We don't have all of the answers to everything,” George said. “Some things you put in and you wait to see how it works. “Let's give that signalised intersection a chance and see what happens, but remember they are works in progress and the ministry will continue to monitor to see if it is working efficiently and if not changes will be made.
A murmur went up from the audience when it was announced that the dangerous U-turn that drivers normally take to head west to West Mall or Carenage is to be eliminated with the upgrade to the highway. George said it was not a significant inconvenience to Diego Martin residents to drive further east and turn by the Mucurapo Foreshore intersection and head west towards West Mall or Carenage.
He said safety was paramount and it was more prudent to use the proposed new route, since the current turn was deemed a hazard. Chief Planning Engineer, Roads, Michael Mc Kenzie, Deputy Permanent Secretary Roger Israel, Civil Engineer 1 Rose Marie Maraj-Wright, PURE project engineer Charlene Augustin-Bastaldo and Director of the Highways Division Roger Ganesh also answered questions.
Diego Martin West MP Dr Keith Rowley, Diego Martin Central MP Dr Amery Browne and officials of the regional corporation were also in attendance. Concerning a suggestion by a resident for a pedestrian overpass at Four Roads, George said he didn’t know if it would work because there were lot of acquisition issues.
Another major concern was the drainage problems that the highway expansion might bring to traditionally flood-prone areas such as Victoria Gardens.
George said the ministry will continue to work and accept the suggestion made by the residents to see what was viable and will return to them in due course. He sought their patience and understanding. He said the Powder Magazine walkover was hardly used by pedestrians, who prefered to brave the traffic and cross the highway in the peak morning hours, and encouraged them to use it.
George said the elevators were vandalised and required 24-hour police surveillance and the physically challenged may have to find another way across Imbert said: “These projects were approved by Cabinet before the general election. Why is it taking so long, especially the highway?
“I've raised the issue in Parliament about four times already because the highway construction began before the general election and shortly after, they stoped it. Funds were in place, designs were completed and now it’s more than two and a half years, and they've now resumed it with no rational explanation as to why it wasn’t done, other than it wasn’t a priority for them.”
He said he was not worried about cost overruns right now but just wanted the government to get on with it. Imbert said had it followed the original schedule, it would have been completed by the end of 2010, as the land acquisition was initiated in April and May 2010 and by June or July equipment could have been moving on to complete the project.
Imbert said work stopped at Victoria Gardens and the next phase was Acton Court. “I think the residents are unhappy about the traffic lights and what the ministry will have to do is to see what happens when they complete that section and see if it creates a bottleneck or not and deal with it.
“And also consider putting a flyover and a pedestrian walkover from the Four Roads area coming over the highway. These are the main concerns of the people. If they don't do it, we will put them in. They don’t have long to go.”
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