Four ongoing projects between Morvant Junction and the Hyatt Regency, on Wrightson Road, were the cause of the heavy traffic heading east out of Port of Spain (PoS) yesterday.
In order to facilitate the works, there was a temporary closure of part of the Beetham Highway to South Quay on Wrightson Road from 9 pm on Friday and continues to 6 pm today. The Priority Bus Route (PBR) was also opened light motor vehicles only between the PoS and Mt Hope intersections.
Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan told Sunday Newsday the culverts on the east-bound lane of the Beetham Highway were being replaced, the Sea Lots walkover was being installed, work was being done on a pilot project to minimise flooding at South Quay, and TTEC was installing cables by the Hyatt.
Giving a brief rundown on the projects, he said the culverts were installed 60 or 70 years ago and were all failing at the same time. Therefore it was imperative to change them, on both sides of the highway, as soon as possible.
Sinanan said the pilot project was a short term solution to the flooding at South Quay when rain fell. He said several studies were done over the years but they “failed.” Therefore the ministry decided to do something about it. “The Ministry of Works brought engineers together and we are trying to put in a sump pump to see how fast that could pull the water out.”
He said they did not expect the problem to be immediately solved but hoped for improvement. If some relief from the usual flooding was observed, they would continue the exercise on several parts of South Quay to Wrightson Road.
He said TTEC should have finished their work yesterday and the Sea Lots walkover should be completed by today.
“I know there is inconvenience however there is very little we could do to minimise it here. That is why we would have chosen the weekend to have the work completed. We programmed the work in such a way that once we close off the roadway we could maximise the amount of work to be done.
“We don’t want to do one thing this weekend and then next week come and block for something else... And all the jobs should be in a state of readiness to allow for the free flow of traffic in time for the public holiday.”
That readiness he said, would include the Maracas Bailey bridge, the installation of which was scheduled to be completed yesterday. He said contrary to reports about another landslip, there was none, although there were minor incidents of material continuing to fall.
Yesterday, vehicles along the PBR, Eastern Main Road (EMR), and the Lady Young Road were stuck in heavy traffic with motorists taking hours from PoS to Morvant Junction.
Police officers were seen at the John John traffic lights, as well as the three traffic lights along the bus route from the NP flyover to the Barataria intersection, attempting to keep order and improve the flow of traffic.
However not much could be done as vehicles moved at a crawling pace on the bus route. On the main road, vehicles remained at a standstill for long periods of time only inching forward when it did move. By 12.30 pm, traffic was backed up along Independence Square.
“I seriously didn’t expect this much traffic because even though they closed the highway they opened the bus route. I don’t know where all these cars come from. It took me three hours just to get from the NP flyover to Fernandez compound on the main road. Three hours!” exclaimed one driver on the EMR.
Some drivers turned around and headed back to PoS if they could, while others sat and waited in frustration. Still others tried to avoid the traffic as much as possible by taking back roads, driving on the shoulders, and switching from bus route to main road and back in the hope of more movement.
Arima maxi taxi driver, “Lefty” Brown said when he arrived in town at 6 am, traffic had already started building up. He said usually, at that time on a weekend, the roads were empty but he noticed there were many cars on the EMR and traffic got progressively thicker as time passed.
Brian Blackman from San Juan said he and the other maxi drivers had no choice but to face the traffic as passengers still needed to conduct business or to go home. He said traffic on the bus route eased considerably after Morvant Junction because regular traffic was diverted to the highway at that point. However, he said it was still a strain on their finances as the traffic doubled the time it usually took them to make a trip from City Gate to Arima and back.
Brown interjected to praise the police officers who “ignored the lights” and directed traffic, saying that they actually helped improve the traffic flow.