CONSTRUCTION OF HIGHWAY 2000 BEGINS THIS MONTH
KINGSTON, Jan. 4 (JIS):
Highway 2000, one of the special Millennium projects announced by Prime Minister P. J. Patterson over a year ago, is expected to get off the ground this month.
After many months of preparatory work it was announced on June 26 last year that the French firm, Bouygues, had been awarded the contract for Phase One of the project.
Making the announcement at Jamaica House, Prime Minister Patterson said the decision was made to go ahead with the project, after the pre-feasibility study showed that it was "technically feasible and fundable".
A formula was also established for the funding of the project using the Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) system.
Highway 2000, as conceptualized, is a 230-kilometre four-lane toll expressway linking Kingston in the South to Montego Bay in the North West and Ocho Rios in the North. A number of access sections for the highway will be put in place, including construction of a new six-lane bridge across the Portmore Causeway in St. Catherine.
Phase One will run from Kingston to Williamsfield in Manchester, while Phase Two will comprise Bushy Park to Ocho Rios and Williamsfield to Montego Bay.
This project is being managed out of the Development Bank of Jamaica, which is an agency reporting to the Office of the Prime Minister.
Bouygues will provide much of the financing for building the highway and then recover its investment by operating it as a toll road for 35 years.
It will then be handed over to the government, which will assume responsibility for its operation and maintenance. Phase One of the highway will cost US$390 million.
The Prime Minister announced that the Concessionaire would provide US$283 million or 72.5 per cent of the total cost.
"That will include their equity contribution, loans obtained by them and backed by various export credit agencies, commercial debt and loans from the private sector division of a multi-lateral lending agency," said Mr. Patterson.
The Jamaican government will contribute US$107 million or 27.5 per cent to the total cost of the project. This will be in the form of a loan to the concession company, which will be repaid by the cash flows that are generated by the project.
Four relevant agreements were also signed in November to get the project started this month. These were the Implementation Agreement; the Equity Shareholders Agreement; a Government-Procured Debt Agreement and the Concession Agreement.
The contractor, Bouygues of France, has established a company, Trans-Jamaica Highway Company Limited, to manage the construction work.
The Prime Minister, in an address to Parliament on Tuesday, November 27, highlighted the benefits that should accrue to Portmore and its environs, which "enjoys heavy traffic density".
The needs of this large community, he said, would be met by the construction of a six-lane bridge at the Causeway, replacing the existing two-lane structure.
He also advised the House of Representatives that those persons who chose not to use the Portmore Causeway would be able instead, to travel on Mandela Highway, which would be expanded from four to six lanes.
At Fort Augusta, the existing road will give access to Port Henderson and Portmore proper. The new alignment will run parallel to Dawkins Drive, connecting the Old Dyke Road, following the Hunts Bay shoreline and the West Bank of the Rio Cobre.
The Old Dyke Road will be widened into four lanes, with intersections at Passage Fort and Gregory Park, north of the railway.
The Prime Minister disclosed that a major toll plaza would be constructed at the end of the Dyke Road "to signal the main entrance to Highway 2000, which will run South of Spanish Town into Old Harbour and on to Williamsfield in Manchester".
One of the main justifications for Highway 2000 is the possibility that it will influence the emergence of a range of collateral projects, including the proposed air cargo hub at Vernamfield and a 4,000-hectare residential/commercial township development at Inverness in Clarendon.
"These collateral projects will provide the necessary catalyst for economic growth and employment generation. I believe it will have a dramatic impact on where people live in Jamaica, where new industries and other economic activities are located. It will allow for balanced economic development in Jamaica," the Prime Minister said.