Two weeks ago, I wrote what I then felt was a story of hope. Or, perhaps, what I then felt was the story that should be told.
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Burgeoning traffic in Chaguanas
Chaguanas mayor Gopaul Boodhan says an additional roundabout will be built at the Price Plaza area along with other measures to be implemented in the borough in an effort to help alleviate the Central district’s burgeoning traffic problems.
This was just part of the Chaguanas Borough Corporation’s strategic plan for traffic management and the greater design of transforming the borough to city status.
Speaking to the Sunday Guardian on Wednesday from his office at the corporation’s new administrative complex, which has been opened for the last three weeks at Cumberbatch Street, Chaguanas, Boodhan said, “Transport is a challenge, an estimated 120,000 people pass through Chaguanas on weekends and we have around 80,000 to 100,000 people passing through during the week.
“Based on input from the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure, the corporation and interest groups, the plans are there. I can say with some level of confidence that we’re going to solve or minimise the problems of transport.
“This will be done through initiatives such as an additional roundabout to be built at Price Plaza, new entrances and exits, new infrastructure works, a transit hub, and the park-and-ride concept.”
He said there were other proposals to help ease travelling challenges such as making certain streets one way on mornings and evenings at specified times, assigning more traffic wardens, also requesting that they work Saturdays and Sunday mornings as the borough was a “major problem” attracting an influx of shoppers from the rest of the country, mandatory for new high-rise buildings to incorporate parking accommodation in their designs, and a metered parking system for the Ramsaran Street area.
When asked if there were concerns raised (similar to when the Churchill-Roosevelt/Uriah Butler Highway Interchange was being built by Grand Bazaar) that Price Plaza and the adjacent businesses that the new, winding road system might be too confusing or a traffic hazard making it less convenient to access, he replied that Chaguanas was built on the business community and no one will be left behind, everything will be done to incorporate everybody.
No new taxes
Boodhan said he also wanted to allay people’s fears that with the transition of Chaguanas to city status that residents will have to pay exorbitant taxes. He said at this point in time, there will be no higher taxes to pay as currently citizens pay no land and building taxes.
He said the benefits of transforming Chaguanas into a city are increased economic activity, the ability to attract foreign direct investment, delivery of services with greater efficiency and higher quality, more employment opportunities, increase in local tourism, gain exposure to the culture that is indigenous to Chaguanas, be able to qualify for a larger portion of budget allocation, and the ability to issue bonds in order to raise revenue to implement projects.
Lower crime rate in Central
Boodhan said the borough and central Trinidad had a lower level of crime than many areas in the country largely due to the efforts of Central Division head Snr Supt Johnny Abraham and his team of police officers, and there will be an increase in municipal police to augment the safety and security of Chaguanas.
He said vendors from other parts of the country coming into Chaguanas as well as illegal immigrants were compounding the vending situation. Boodhan said the municipal police, immigration department and other agencies were going to get them out.
He said the present, temporary street vendors mall was in competition with the street vendors and that level of lawlessness will not continue. Boodhan acknowledged that people needed to make a living but in an organised fashion.
When the Sunday Guardian was in Chaguanas, a tanker was having difficulties navigating out of a gas station on the main road because of a vendor’s goods and boxes on the pavement which had to be moved.
Regarding the repurposing of the library to a court to deal with a large backlog of cases, Boodhan said Planning Minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie indicated that lands will be made available to design a new library which will be built in a more suitable location as well as a Central Academy for the Performing Arts Centre.
He said the court could also be a pilot project to settle minor cases such as traffic offences, small claims, family disputes and mediation.
Vision for Chaguanas
Some of the other plans envisaged for transitioning the borough to city status include the construction of the Open Campus of the University of the West Indies, next to the Divali Nagar in Endeavour Road, remedial road works, eTeck economic zones, training centres, housing development, government campuses, a health facility, an expansive market mall on 40 acres of land at Woodford Lodge, vendors’ mall and green spaces.
Boodhan said without community consultation, all the good ideas from the corporation, technocrats or him will come to zero if they don’t get the support, participation and partnership of the burgesses and residents to make the dream of transforming Chaguanas to city status a reality.