I set up the meeting with the client in Ocho Rios a few weeks before to coincide with my usual visit to my Kingston Office. The meeting was scheduled to take place in Ocho Rios, and the plan was to drive over.
The Chinese contractor was putting the final touches on the new toll road that linked Kingston in the Southeast with the North coast. It was never the case that Southern part of the island was not linked to the Northern side, but the road network consists of narrow, winding and hilly roads where in some places it was problematic for two medium size trucks to pass each other. Hence, a journey from Kingston to Ocho Rios normally takes 90 minutes, and that is without any major delays being encountered.
The idea to link the North side of the island with the South side was conceptualized I was informed well over 50 years ago. However, it was former Prime Minister, P. J. Patterson in an address to his Party Annual Conference in 1997, or thereabout, announced an ambitious plan to construct a road network that would link Kingston to Montego Bay, via Mandeville, with a spur extension to Ocho Rios. The project was designated as one of the millennium projects, and was aptly named Highway 2000. The critics at the time had a field day with this announcement, as it was the norm for governing Parties to announced ambitious projects, with the sole intention to garnered electoral votes, but in the long run were never implemented due to the usual budgetary constraints. The Highway 2000 Project is one such exception. The French Contractor, Bouygues constructed the East-West Leg, which currently runs from Kingston to Sandy Park in May Pen. They also started the construction of the North-South leg, but due to contractual issues between them and the Government, the Chinese stepped in and completed the project in what is considered a record time for a project of such magnitude.
We left Kingston few minutes beyond the agreed time, wended our way through the Washington Boulevard morning traffic onto the Mandela Highway to the new interchange just west of the Caymanas turn-off. The toll booth clerk greeted me with a pleasant smile and handed me the small rectangular entry card, quite similar to what one would get entering the New Jersey Turnpike. The Subaru made light work of the 7% grade leaving the Caymanas interchange, and since the traffic cops were nowhere around, we went by the Angels’ Interchange within five minutes, before swooping down in the verdant Bog Walk Valley with the beautifully laid out orange groves. Thirty minutes after our entrance, we were at the Mammee Bay roundabout. A few years ago, without the Mount Rosser bypass, this journey would have taken us 90 minutes, instead of the 30 minutes it took us, a saving in time of approximately 67%.
Productivity will indeed rise as the man-hours loss due to traveling will be reduced. This will increase the profit margins of the business users of the highway, despite the perceived high cost associated with its use. The road to increase productivity is now open.