'Anything can happen': Motorists told to be cautious amid roadwork … – Loop News Jamaica

5 min read
As the Southern Coastal Highway Improvement Project (SCHIP) and other major road works across the island progress, the public is being urged to be especially cautious while traversing through the areas under construction. 
The SCHIP is being executed in sections of St Thomas and Portland, and from May Pen to Williamsfield. This is being done by contractors, China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC). 
Other major road projects include the Montego Bay Perimeter Road, which is being implemented by the National Road Operating and Constructing Company (NROCC).
“Once we take a decision to rehabilitate a road, there are always safety issues that will arise,” said National Works Agency (NWA) Communication and Customer Services Manager Stephen Shaw.
He explained that the issue is more pronounced where work is being done on roads that are in active use, “because if you’re working on what we refer to as virgin land, creating a new road, the safety issues are a bit different than those that we’ll have when we are working on a road that is active and in use.”
Shaw said the use of flag persons and the posting of warning signs are key to guiding motorists to safe road use along these corridors. 
However, some members of the public have been removing these signs for other purposes and are retarding the efforts to keep the roads safe.

Cones mark the separation of lanes on a section of the Pamphret main road in St Thomas, which is under construction as part of the Southern Coastal Highway Improvement Project (SCHIP). (Photo: JIS)

“I’ve seen signs being used as domino tables, for example. I’ve seen signs being used in the roasting of fish. We have a myriad of issues and, of course, persons will complain from time to time, legitimately, that there aren’t enough signs in some locations,” the manager added.
He pointed out that where such an issue is flagged, the NWA will move quickly to have it addressed to give persons “every opportunity to be safer while traversing our corridors”.
In addition, since projects like the SCHIP are active and ongoing, it must be acknowledged that there will be some amount of dislocation, even at varying times within a day.
“If, for example, an embankment is being created… you would have gone along a particular road driving on a lower section in the morning. But throughout the day, much work would have been done that necessitates the change in the movement of the vehicular traffic,” Shaw noted.
“And so, you will find persons saying, ‘I had gone through this area this morning or a few hours ago, driving in this direction, and I’m coming back now expecting that to be the same, and I’m going in another direction’,” he added.
Shaw advised that once people are using a road that is under construction, they should expect changes at a moment’s notice as, “depending on how things are unfolding, the persons on the ground have to modify the operations accordingly.”
He further pointed out that another major aspect of active road projects is that the speed limits are usually “quite low” and “far different from what obtains ordinarily.”
“Very often, we have like 30 kilometres per hour speed limits, going through construction zones. Persons obey to a point [and] as soon as they get an opportunity to press gas, they do, very often causing a dust nuisance. Then you have issues with knocking over cones and even knocking down flag persons,” he noted.
Shaw, therefore, urged that even for sections of the road project that appear completed, the speed limit should still be obeyed.
“Anything can happen. You can be travelling along the road and there is an area that might have been excavated; if you’re going at a certain speed, you’re going to have difficulty navigating same, not thinking or not remembering that you’re driving through a construction zone,” he said.

Asphalt being laid on a section of the road in Grants Pen, St Thomas, under the Southern Coastal Highway Improvement Project (SCHIP). (Photo: JIS)

Shaw is, again, warning motorists to desist from accessing sections of road projects that are not yet opened to the public.
“If it is not open, don’t attempt to use it. And if you’re taking public passenger vehicles, and the operators choose to go on sections of roads that are not supposed to be in use, object and object strenuously because your life might be dependent on it,”  he emphasised.
Regarding the issue of falling debris from trucks, Shaw pointed out that this should not be happening.
“The trucks should be loaded [in a manner] so as to not have debris falling from them. Whatever the cargo is, it should be covered or strapped so that it doesn’t fall on to the road, because that then becomes an issue, either a nuisance or an impediment that can cost lives. So we really don’t want to have those kinds of situations,” he said.
If debris is falling from a truck while traversing a construction site, persons can get the particulars of the truck and reach out to the NWA who will then speak to the consultants who are supervising on their behalf.
The matter is, however, a policing one, Shaw pointed out.
Likewise, if motorists observe that there is not enough signage along the corridors of a construction zone, this can also be brought to the NWA’s attention.
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