Poor road conditions spark protests, partial pullout of taxi services
Residents in several communities in Clarendon Northern are calling for the deplorable roads in the constituency to be rehabilitated.
The residents’ frustration boiled over on Monday, triggering protests in places such as James Hill, Cave Valley, Bog Hole, Carty Hill and Trout Hall.
Tracey-Ann Mahoney, principal at James Hill Primary, told The Gleaner that the recent heavy rains that lashed the island have further eroded the road surface in many areas, causing more frustration for commuters.
“My daily commute now takes an additional 15 to 20 minutes each way, due to the deteriorating state of the road. This impacts greatly on the wear and tear of the vehicle as well as the time spent commuting, which could be spent in productive service or with family,” she noted.
Mahoney pointed out that her students are also being negatively affected as some taxi operators have withdrawn their services from the route. Only a few loyal operators now ply the route, she said.
“Students have to be out early in the mornings if they are to squeeze into one of the few available taxis, so as to arrive at school before lessons commence each day,” she told The Gleaner.
Shelly-Ann Grant Thompson, who teaches at James Hill Primary, said the current state of the road is “a disgrace”, bemoaning the fact that what would normally be a 10-minute drive from Cave Valley to James Hill Primary is now taking close to 30 minutes.
“It is tiring to traverse daily to and from school, even difficult to give persons ride. I understand the frustration of the daily road users, and it’s sad that it had to come to this to get member of parliament’s attention, but better roads are needed,” she said, adding that a number of Claude McKay High School teachers have parked their vehicles and have resorted to taking taxis as they fear damaging their own motor cars.
“These roadblocks are impacting teaching and learning severely, but I understand the frustration ‘cause I am frustrated, too,” she quipped.
“I reach school late sometimes to how the taxis have to take their time to drive on the road,” shared one grade three student.
Keneisha Blair, who returned to the island recently to visit her relatives in the community of James Hill, said she was left embarrassed as the community she bragged to her husband about was in a sorry state.
“I went to Jamaica on September 22 and we did not know where to turn on the side of the road. We had to take to the bushes just not to drop in a pothole. It’s the first road I have ever seen with a pothole inside of a pothole,” she shared with The Gleaner.
Describing the situation, she said the potholes seemed to have layers.
The overgrown bushes along the roadway have added to the concern for residents, who said the long stretch is reminiscent of popular Holland Bamboo thoroughfare in St Elizabeth.
“So if you have one pickney a come from school, dem nuh have no weh fi walk. Dem affi walk in the road, and if somebody draw them away in the bush, you can’t even realise if you a pass them to how the grass thick and tall,” said Blair.
Delroy Dawson, councillor for the Aenon Town Division – which encompasses Carty Hill, James Hill and Bog Hole – admitted that the roads are in need of urgent attention.
Regarding the ones that fall under the municipal corporation, Dawson said that his hands were tied, as he is only allotted funds to fix roads per year at a ceiling of $3 million each.
“That can only do about 250 metres of road, and if rains, then the budget is overrun. We are under serious problems financially to get things done. We not getting funding from the councils. Right now, we are asking for more money to get things done,” he explained.
Commenting on additional concerns about the lack of streetlights, the councillor said that he is waiting for the Jamaica Public Service Company to remedy the problem.
Efforts by The Gleaner to get a comment from Clarendon Northern Member of Parliament Dwight Sibbles proved futile as messages sent to his phone went unanswered and phone calls were not returned.