For decades, residents of Montego Bay and neighbouring parishes who traverse the congested city in the west have often faced traffic gridlocks entering and exiting, in a bid to access the highways.
This has left many expressing their frustration and more recently, the calls for the construction of the Montego Bay bypass have been echoing louder and more frequently.
But a change is on the horizon, with plans for the construction of the Montego Bay Bypass slated to commence by 2021.
“This is another toll road that will be built by the Jamaican government. The contract has already been signed. We anticipate that TransJamaican Highway (TJH), being a publicly listed company, will pursue an opportunity to own and operate the Montego Bay by-pass, as they have with the Mandela Highway to May Pen by-pass,” said Dwight Jackson, Origination and Structuring Manager at the National Commercial Bank Capital Markets (NCBCM), which was the lead broker for the TJH initial IPO, between February 17 and March 2.
“The TransJamaican Highway has a lot of potential and the Montego Bay By-pass is one such potential,” Jackson added.
The Montego Bay bypass will be a 15 kilometre toll road stretching from the Rose Hall main road, in the vicinity of the Blue Diamond Shopping Centre onto the Bogue Highway.
Ivan Anderson, managing director at the National Road Operating Construction Company (NROCC), said the project is estimated to cost US$220 million and will be fully funded by the Jamaican government.
Anderson said expectations are that the project should start towards the latter part of 2021. Construction is expected to last for approximately three years.
“We are now acquiring lands in the different areas. There will be some relocation of residents in the Salt Spring area.”
Giving a visual outline of the route, Anderson explained: “It will traverse south into the hills of Salt Spring; passes behind Cornwall Court and the Green Pond High School. It will then wrap around in the Irwin and Porto Bello communities; travels into Fairfield and goes by the Temple Gallery main road in the vicinity of Appliance Traders in Bogue. It will loop around the sewerage ponds and ends on the Howard Cooke Boulevard.
This means that persons travelling from Montego Bay towards Ocho Rios and vice versa, will no longer have to drive through the town centre when the toll road completes,” Anderson emphasized.
The project will also include the Long Hill by-pass, which will join onto the Montego Bay by pass, south of the Temple Gallery road.
It will start in the vicinity of the Reading main road ( along Gore Developments) and will travel through Anchovy down into Montpellier.
This means that motorists will no longer have to drive along the winding, narrow Long Hill road.
Said Anderson: “Long Hill is a steep, winding, narrow road and everybody in Montego Bay knows that. Oftentimes whenever there is an accident along that road, everything is backed up for miles and for hours. The idea, therefore, is to construct a world-class by-pass, which meets US standards.”
Funding for this project will come from the US$220 million earmarked for the Montego Bay by pass.
Anderson outlined that an overpass road will be built at the intersection of the Temple Gallery and the Bogue main roads. Overpass roads will also be constructed at the intersections of the Fairfield and Adelphi main roads.
“There will also be a new interchange in the vicinity of the Cornwall Courts Housing Scheme and the Green Pond High School, as well as another in the Salt Spring area,” noted Anderson.
And in seeking to allay doubts or preconceptions, Anderson has assured that should there be a change of government at any time before or during the construction of the Montego Bay by pass, such a move would not likely affect the project, as the contract has already been signed off.
Asked if the government would consider opening an initial public offering (IPO) when this project is complete, Anderson responded: “Maybe in the near future. We may have a discussion and should the government decide on that, TransJamaican Highway may acquire that asset to own and operate.”
Anderson said the decision as to whether the TJH applies to own and operate the Montego Bay by-pass will be one that is made by the shareholders of TJH. He said that the TJH is one of only two companies in Jamaica managing road concessions, which would give TJH a ‘leg up.’ In contrast to the May Pen to Williamsfield toll road, TJH will not have any first rights of refusal in relation to the Montego Bay By-pass.
The TJH IPO was set at J$1.41 or US$0.01, which raised over J$14.1 billion by March 2. Against this background, Anderson was asked how attractive he reckons an IPO for the Montego Bay bypass could likely be, should the government decide to offer such.
He responded: “The decision will be assessed based on traffic studies done closer to the time of opening in 2023/2024.”