Jamaica : NEWS

Finally! A bypass to Bog Walk Gorge coming
June 22, 2012

New highway to be completed in three years

CONSTRUCTION is to begin on the Caymanas to Ocho Rios leg of Highway 2000 by the middle of year. China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) and its subsidiary China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) yesterday signed the Concession Agreement to fully fund the US$600-million North/South link of the toll road which had been stalled for several years.

The toll road, which will now begin at Caymanas, off the Mandela Highway, and bypass the problematic Bog Walk Gorge as well as Mount Rosser and Fern Gully, is expected to be fully completed within three years. It will end just west of the famous Dunn’s River Falls.

A special purpose company — Jamaica North South Highway Company Limited — established by CHEC to undertake the development will be responsible for financing, design, constructing and operating the project for the concession period of 50 years, following which the roadway will be handed over to the Jamaican Government.

Chairman of the National Road Operating and Constructing Company (NROCC) Dr Wayne Reid said the North/ South segment will consist of 68 kilometres of roadway with section one — Caymanas to the Linstead Bypass — being approximately 27 kilometres. Section two, the Linstead Bypass to Moneague is 20 kilometres, while the third segment, Moneague to Ocho Rios, is 21 kilometres.

Reid, speaking at the contract signing at the Ministry of Transport’s offices on Maxfield Avenue in Kingston, said the first and third sections are expected to be completed by 2015, while the delayed Mount Rosser bypass should be ready by next September, with work scheduled to restart later this year.

The responsibility of NROCC, he said, will encompass the land acquisition for the corridor, lease of that corridor to the developers, monitoring and approval of the drawings, in conjunction with the National Works Agency, monitoring of the quality of construction and thereafter the monitoring of the operations of the roadway.

“Upon signing of these agreements we will embark on land acquisition on a full-time basis and more so when we get more detailed drawings from the developer,” Reid said.

He explained that there is also an agreement with CHEC for the development of some five square kilometres of land along the corridor.

Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips, speaking at the signing ceremony, explained that CHEC has been given a 50-year concession period, compared to the 35 years given to Trans Jamaican Highway — the first developers of Highway 2000 — because there is no financial commitment on the part of the Jamaican Government.

As such, he said, it was considered necessary to facilitate the sole investor/risk taker sufficient time to recoup that investment with an appropriate rate of return.

“If it doesn’t recoup in 50 years that would be a problem for China Harbour as they are taking the risk and so if their calculations go wrong, then they suffer the consequences because there is nothing committing the Government of Jamaica to make good on any miscalculation that they make,” Phillips said.

Phillips said this leg of Highway 2000 is an essential part of the growth strategy for the country, along with other major projects, some of which China Harbour already has an interest in.

“This North/South link highway will open up a range of other development possibilities in the tourism sector, housing and construction, manufacturing and assembly operations and that is the real value of infrastructure, not just convenience for the travelling public but the development potential it unlocks,” Phillips said.

Transport Minister Dr Omar Davies said, too, that this new leg of the highway represents a significant investment in infrastructure in Jamaica.

Government on its own, he said, will not be able to provide the investment capital needed to move the economy forward, hence the move to utilise the available asset to stimulate private sector investment in areas which traditionally have been seen to be the province of government.

Opposition spokesperson on transport Karl Samuda said the project is one which brings a level of hard infrastructural development that will serve to encourage investors to invest in Jamaica, while facilitating the development of the Caymanas Enterprise Zone, which was mooted under his administration.

Chen Zong, senior vice-president of China Communications Company, said the firm will make good organisation to fulfil this project with higher quality and good maintenance.

Source: The Jamaica Observer