Traffic lights newly installed at the Ronald Mapp Highway-Westmoreland junction were taken from a stock of approximately $2 million worth of equipment that has been lying in storage for more than two years, Minister of Transport Dr William Duguid revealed on Wednesday as he officially introduced the stoplights.
Dr Duguid, elated by the latest development on his ongoing press tour of the ministry’s roadworks programme, told reporters that he is confident the stoplights, part of Government’s ‘junction improvement programme’, will help to save lives.
He said he was happy that area residents’ long-time calls for the stoplights have now been answered.
The traffic signals were taken from a stock of road infrastructure that included cones, reflective road studs – cat’s eyes – and rumble strips, corrugated surfaces that vibrate under wheels to alert inattentive drivers of potential danger.
The transport minister said: “We looked at our stock at the ministry and we found quite a bit of stock was already there. Some I believe over two years. Stock that could have been installed before. But we are happy to be able to come and get these traffic lights installed as a matter of urgency because we cannot continue to have fatalities on our roads and those fatalities not being addressed. We cannot continue to have roads, drivers or vehicles that are dangerous.
“I am sure some of the equipment was there over two years. I can’t tell you if all. But it would be scandalous to imagine that all of this equipment was there sitting down over two years and the last administration neglected to install it to protect people’s lives in this country because then those people’s blood would be on their hands.
“We are going to investigate it and see if all of that equipment was there because if it was there sitting down in a warehouse and all that it meant was for the impetus to get up, design it and install it and they neglected to do it for stupid political reasons then I would be very disappointed.”
The installation of the traffic lights along Highway 2A in the St James community comes several years after numerous pleas including calls from members of parliament across successive governments.
The installation started almost four weeks ago, and officials are hoping to have all the sensors and signals installed by the weekend so the lights can be switched on by next week. This will be accompanied by road marking.
As he previewed other junction improvements Dr Duguid told reporters: “We have looked at about 20 junctions and we have selected about five that can get improvements. You would have seen the one at the Garfield Sobers Roundabout. That was the first one. The second one is this at Westmoreland and we have a third one that will be coming through shortly and then we will be coming back with the fourth and fifth.
“It isn’t everything that you have to buy. Sometimes you look and see what you have in stock and put them in place and that is what we have been doing.”
Minister of Home Affairs and area MP Edmund Hinkson welcomed the new traffic lights, recalling that the junction has been one of the deadliest, with several deaths in road traffic accidents there in recent years.
“There is no final cost that you can measure in terms of a life,” said Hinkson, who expressed disappointment with the Freundel Stuart administration for not installing the traffic lights although they were in storage.
He said the crossroads were too small for a roundabout, which meant Government would have had to acquire land for which it did not have the money.
“So traffic lights were the obvious choice,” said Hinkson. “The last government totally ignored the issue…. You have heard Dr Duguid said the traffic lights were there and therefore they could have been put up.”
Several residents expressed relief at the sight of the stoplights to allow them to better navigate the deadly junction. Next, they said, authorities should turn their attention to mitigating flooding there.
Anstey Haynes, 60, who has been living in the community since 1996, said the area could be treacherous for pedestrians.
“I am happy that they come around and do something about it very quickly,” said Haynes.
“We have another problem with water that settles out which I think can be solved in two hours with a bit of understanding,” he said, adding that he has been pleading with authorities for the past three years to fix the problems with the wells and drains in the area.
Yvette Blackett, another Westmoreland resident, said: “We have been going under serious stress for the longest time having to cross the streets out here. As you can see how busy it is.”
Pointing out that motorists hardly stop to allow pedestrians to cross the road, Blackett, who has lived in the area over 40 years, said she would also like to see a pedestrian crossing at the nearby Baker’s Woods, Rock Dundo areas. [email protected]