|Chaguaramas Causeway still alive |
By Jovan Ravello Thursday, August 10 2017
Perhaps everything the Chaguaramas Development Authority (CDA) proposed during its tenure between 2010 and 2015 was met with more than a healthy dose of skepticism.
During a particularly turbulent period that saw the Western peninsula under increased focus almost every day, the CDA proposed one of its more ambitious projects to a tense Radisson Hotel ballroom. The Port-of- Spain to Chaguaramas Causeway was proposed as the answer to the road infrastructure needs of a growing corner of the country.
Former Minister of Planning and Sustainable Development, Dr. Bhoe Tewarie, pointed out that the demands on the single carriageway servicing the area had grown exponentially as the area was allowed to develop unchecked, causing unbearable traffic for residents and businesses alike, adversely affecting productivity and the ease of doing business in Chaguaramas.
The idea first appeared in the PNM’s 2010 manifesto, was adopted by the People’s Partnership (PP) administration and made its way to platforms for both the PP and PNM during the last general election campaign. The ‘Alternative Access Route From Port-of-Spain to Chaguaramas’ remains on NIDCO’s ‘Future Projects’ page.
Former Prime Minister Kamla Persad- Bissessar signaled her government’s intent to partner with the Canadian Government to assess the feasibility of building the road, if her government was returned to office.
It’s one of the proposals that survived the change in government and the National Infrastructure Development Company Limited (NIDCO) sent out a request for tenders in July 2016. Contacted for comment, Minister of Works and Transport, Rohan Sinanan, said there has been some progress.
“Right now they are doing the traffic study, there’s a consultant looking at the project through NIDCO,” is all he would offer.
While declining to name the consultant or give a timeline either of their engagement on the project or its commencement, he says the consultant will also conduct environmental and feasibility studies.
The development of the Chaguaramas Boardwalk has increased the area’s popularity on weekends. In 2011, international energy drink, Red Bull’s Flugtag showed Chaguaramas’ true potential as a hub of activity but it also laid bare its inadequacies.
Over 20,000 spectators made it to the event, thousands more were stuck in the traffic jam which stretched as far back as Invaders Bay.
Before that Carnival fetes had created similar issues, but the scale of the Flugtag imbroglio, which also proved a nightmare for emergency services on the day, was unprecedented.
If it is built, the causeway would be unprecedented in the region. Jamaica’s Portmore Causeway is a 5-kilometre bridge that links Kingston and St Catherine, the proposed Chaguaramas causeway will be almost four times that long.
According to the 216- page CDA Master Plan, a Transportation Focus Group held on June 18th, 2014, presented a wide range of options.
At a heated 2015 public consultation in April 2015, the CDA and Ministry of Planning also floated the idea of dedicated mass transit systems into Chaguaramas.
The first of these was a park and ride shuttle service which would reduce the number of cars utilising the Western Main Road. At present it takes roughly an hour to travel to the Western peninsula at peak traffic times, the shuttle system’s main aim was to remove the majority of vehicles from the route and thus ensure faster transit times in and out of Chaguaramas.
However, given the public transportation experience of many commuters added to the preference of motorists to drive rather than be driven, the proposal was met with some opposition.
The other alternative is a ferry service from the Water Taxi hub on Wrightson Road to Pier 2. In December 2016, Minister in the Office of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs, Stuart Young, in querying selected CDA leases granted between 2010 and 2015, said government had cancelled one held by Chaguaramas Parking.
The Company, incorporated February 12, 2015, and granted the lease on May 22, 2015, was charged with building a 1,000-space car park at the site to support the recently opened Water and Amusement Park at Chagville Beach. Minister Sinanan had no updates to offer on the proposed ferry service.
Brent Noel, Managing Director of Chaquacabana Resort and Beach Club, is all in favour of anything that will keep the roads leading to his business uncluttered.
He’s particularly fond of the causeway idea “It would give us the Ocho Rios/Negril effect, it’s really a First World plan,” he said, “nobody wants to take an hour and a half to get somewhere that they can reach in 15 minutes.
It has to be carefully planned but it would be a great idea.”