Traffic Congestion a ‘Vexing Problem’ for the Country, says Minister

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NASSAU, The Bahamas – Reserve Assistant Superintendent of Police Richard Rahming speaks to students about the factors that contribute to accidents for both passengers and drivers, during the 3rd Annual National Youth Road Safety Symposium, at Workers Bank Hall, on Harrol Road, November 29, 2007.  The Ministry of Public Works and Transport, the Road Traffic Department and Chevron Bahamas Ltd., partnered for the event with the main goal of educating the future drivers of the nation on the dangers on the streets and how to be a responsible road user.  (By Kristaan Ingraham)

By: Llonella Gilbert

NASSAU, Bahamas — Crime maybe at the heart of the public’s concern at the moment, but traffic congestion is one of the most vexing problems facing the country, Minister for Public Works and Transport the Hon. Earl Deveaux said.

Using information from the Uniform High Code, Minister Deveaux said if a two-lane highway is planned and designed properly, it should be able to accommodate 2000 vehicular movements per hour.

But, as he pointed out at the third Annual National Youth Road Safety Symposium held, November 29, 2007, and sponsored by Chevron Bahamas Limited, the typical two-lane highway in Nassau today cannot handle 700 vehicular movements per hour.

“So we are facing a problem of congestion, poor design and a lot of friction,” Minister Deveaux said.  “Friction comes about because of vehicle numbers, vehicle types, location of businesses and poor or inadequate planning.”

The Minister noted that adjustments could improve vehicular movement so that two lane roads could hold up to 1200 or 1300 vehicles per hour.

But in the best of circumstances, he explained that New Providence is not likely to achieve the 2000 vehicle movement per hour.

“We cannot solve the traffic problem in New Providence with bigger and better roads.  We have already past that.

“We do not have the option anymore of reducing traffic fatalities by putting speed bumps on the road.  We are already past that.

“Our biggest weapon is public education and enforcement,” Minister Deveaux said.

Road improvement is also one of the significant long-term strategies.

He said the Government of The Bahamas recognises the seriousness of the traffic dilemma.

In 2000, it completed a study for the New Providence Road Improvement Project; but prior to that, going back as early as 1992, a comprehensive study was done.

It documents what are the issues in respect to road traffic.  One of the strategies that came out was to improve the junctions, acquire more land and to improve some of the roads in New Providence.

He said, “We are close to seven years close to that strategy and it was only completed to the extent that Monique Darling Highway what you would have known as Harrold Road, the Milo Butler extension, the Blue Hill extension and the C W Saunders Highway.

“Those are the only portions of 19 corridors that have been completed to date.  The rest of them will take another two and a half years to complete if we get started next month.”

Minister Deveaux said that when they are completed, it is hoped they would alleviate some of the traffic congestion.

He added that another problem causing traffic congestion is poor jitney and taxi service.

He explained that for many years franchising has been given to jitney drivers and now there are 790 franchises and 464 routes. But on the average day only 280 jitneys drive the streets.

Minister Deveaux asked the students present to ponder what would happen on the streets if all the franchise owners decided to put their jitneys on the road while everyone decided to get into their cars.

The Minister said he will not issue any more taxi or jitney licenses until a way is found to take back some of the licenses already out there.  However, because of pressure, Minister Deveaux said he does not know how long he can hold on to this conviction.

But he added that individuals refuse to utilise public transportation because it is unreliable in getting them to their destinations on time.

Minister Deveaux also noted that, for the most part, Bahamians do not want to walk anywhere.

To counteract this, he encouraged the students to be different from the adults and learn to walk to some of their destinations.

He also encouraged persons to cut down on the number of vehicles per family.  Using himself as an example, Minister Deveaux said his nine-member family of which four are adults, does not need the five cars that they have parked on the driveway.

He also encouraged the students and the general public to obey traffic laws and to learn how to properly use roundabouts, which he said would also help cut down traffic congestion.