The long-awaited highway to bypass the congested urban centre of Montego Bay in St. James will soon be a reality, as the Andrew Holness-led Government signed the Montego Bay Perimeter Road Project contract on Wednesday (November 24).
The Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), in a statement today, said that Government has moved to ensure the project is realised, following 16 years of it being ‘in the pipeline’.
The mega-project, estimated at a contracted cost of US$274,517,408.09, will comprise the Montego Bay Perimeter Road, Barnett Street/West Green Avenue Road rehabilitation, Long Hill Bypass, as well as a comprehensive drainage study of the Montego Bay Bypass.
The Perimeter Road will consider connectivity, decreased travel time, and adaptation to climate change.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness noted that a critical feature of the road to be developed is its resilience against natural disasters such as flooding.
“The roads that we are constructing in Montego Bay, in terms of the bypass and addressing long hill, strategically move our roadways inland. This was done strategically because we have to consider the impact of climate change, particularly sea-level rise, on our infrastructure. So, all the roads that we are doing now, even on the South Coast Road Improvement Project that we have started, where we can, we shift the roads inland and to higher ground,” Holness contended.
The Prime Minister detailed that the new highway will also include accommodating broadband cables, water mains and drainage.
In addition to ease of travel in the urban space, the project also will increase opportunities for tourism in Jamaica and incorporate the development of the townships.
Prime Minister Holness reiterated that the Montego Bay Perimeter Road Project will be funded by the Government of Jamaica.
“I am particularly proud of the fact that Jamaica’s fiscal situation is such that we do not need to borrow to implement the project. This is a testament to our financial resilience and a signal of how far we have come as a country. This will be the first major highway development in the country that we would finance with our resources and not linked to a loan,” he added.
In the meantime, the Jamaican labour force stands to gain significantly from the project through employment and transferal of skills.
“We have also taken great care to ensure that the contract represents a win-win for the contractor and Jamaica. Executing the work under this contract requires a minimum of 90 per cent Jamaican labour for unskilled construction work subject to the availability of those workers and they are required to use a minimum of 50 per cent of skilled Jamaican workers for technical works,” the prime minister explained.
The contracted agency, China Harbour Engineering Company Limited (CHEC), will also work in collaboration with the HEART/ NSTA Trust, to develop and implement a training programme for the transfer of knowledge and technology.
The National Road Operating Company (NROC) will also oversee the project.