MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Even as motorists are eagerly awaiting the completion of the US$188-million May Pen to Williamsfield leg of Highway 2000 by August, business and construction leaders are optimistic that the project will drive productivity.
The project — which will reduce travel time between Kingston, Mandeville and other points west — was originally scheduled for completion in October 2022. The last date of completion given was March 2023 and before a timeline was given for January 2023.
President of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce Simone Spence-Johnson told the Jamaica Observer last week that there is great anticipation for the completion of the highway among the business community.
"It [highway] will increase productivity. [Having] a highway that is going to bypass Porus and a lot of the winding roads, can you just imagine how quickly you will reach Mandeville and vice versa?" she asked.
She added that the highway — which starts at the Rio Minho Bridge — will allow for efficient accessibility to central Jamaica.
"We are really looking forward to the completion of the highway and what it will bring into the parish, especially when you talk about business and commerce. It will allow for accessibility for central Jamaica. In terms of even here being the hub with access to the two [cities], if you are coming from the west or coming from the east. Manchester will be looked at as a viable option for any business idea, services that you are looking to put together now. Other than the two corporate ends of the island, we are central so the point of reach is [better] now," said Spence-Johnson.
Stephen Edwards, managing director at the National Road Operating & Constructing Company (NROCC) — which is responsible for overseeing the design, construction and maintenance of Jamaica's highways — explained that when completed the highway will reduce travel time between May Pen and Williamsfield to below 15 minutes.
"Persons who traverse the corridor from May Pen to Williamsfield would be aware of the challenges especially through the Porus and Trinity area where the roads are extremely winding and narrow. The highway alignment will enable goods and services to traverse that corridor much more efficiently. Overall, the project will reduce the travel time between May Pen and Williamsfield to below 15 minutes," he told media staff from the Office of the Prime Minister during a recent tour of the highway.
The project, started in September 2019, employs just over 600 locals and is being undertaken by Chinese firm China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC). The project is 92 per cent complete. The highway project includes the design and construction of approximately 23 kilometres of a four-lane, arterial divided highway on a new alignment, and the upgrading of approximately five kilometres of the existing Melrose Hill Bypass to a four-lane, rural, arterial divided highway.