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BARBICAN BLUES

BY BRIAN BONITTO
Associate Editor —
Auto & Entertainment
bonittob@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, June 01, 2018

ON completion, the Barbican Road Improvement Project will significantly improve the traffic congestion generally associated with that section of the Corporate Area. But, for some, the upgrade is posing a major challenge.

According to Dr Christine Hendricks, executive director of Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities, the needs of people with disabilities were not taken in consideration.

“I know they have the best of intentions, but it is making life difficult, particularly with persons with disabilities. The curb cuts in the sidewalks are two to three inches up from the road, therefore people in wheelchairs would have to be lifting the front and doing some intense manoeuvring to get onto to the side walks... independence would be difficult. In First World countries, the curb is cut out on the same level as the road,” Hendrick told the Jamaica Observer's weekly Auto magazine. “People with disabilities want to be as independent as possible.”

The executive director, who recently visited the site with a visually challenged friend, said the huge divider along Barbican Road by the Loshunsan Supermarket is proving to be a hurdle.

“I know they're there to separate the traffic lanes. But there needs to be a gap where visually challenged people can cross the street. As it is now, one would have to walk all the way down to the stop lights to get across,” she said. “It one Jamaica for every Jamaican... and people with disabilities are part of Jamaican society. They want to be as independent as possible, and we want to empower them.”

Hendricks said earlier this month she wrote to the National Works Agency informing them of her observations. They have acknowledged receipt of the letter, but she hasn't heard anything else.

“I don't want them to continue and then have to knock it down to repair it. That's costly! Let's get it right the first time,” she said.

Stephen Shaw, communication and customer services manager at the State-run National Works Agency (NWA), confirmed he did receive a letter from the executive director and is not opposed to meet with her and her group.

“There was no request for a meeting. However, we are not averse to meeting with them, as we have done a few times before,” he said.

The communication and customer services manager said the disabled community's concerns were taken into consideration before construction.

“That is why we have, for example, made provisions for the ramps. Regarding the lips along the sidewalks in the area, we will be re-examining all to ensure that they function as we expect. The issue for the [disabled' community is not an absence of the [ramp] facility, but how the curb block was constructed. This we will most definitely examine for rectification. As it relates to the median, that is there for safety reasons. Crossing of the road should be done at the signalised points,” he said.

Shaw said the road is “practically completed” and all outstanding items would be addressed with the next 30 days.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness is expected to tour the site today.

With a price tag of $564.7 million (US$4.4-million), the project — which started in March 2017 — is geared towards upgrading of 1.1 kilometres of the 3.75-kilometre Barbican Road.

It involves major improvements along the stretch between the intersections at Jacks Hill Road and the roadway leading to Russell Heights, as well as East Kings House Road to the Barbican Centre, which will be widened to a four-lane carriageway.

Other features will include conversion of the one-way sections of Barbican Road and the south-bound part of East Kings House Road by the Barbican Centre to two-way traffic; the installation of traffic signals at the Birdsucker Lane, East Kings House Road and Jacks Hill Road intersections; widening of the Bustamante Bridge (box culvert) at the intersection with Jacks Hill Road to accommodate four-lane traffic; construction of 1.5-metre-wide sidewalks and medians; installation of drainage pipe/culverts and LED lights; and new signs, road markings and pavement markers.

The Barbican Road Improvement Project is being implemented by China Harbour Engineering and is part of the Major Infrastructure Development Programme.