$50m O’Meara Road upgrade begins

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Arima Mayor Balliram Maharaj. –

Arima Mayor Balliram Maharaj has hailed the launch of the O’Meara Road upgrade project as momentous.

Maharaj was speaking at the sod-turning ceremony for the $50 million project, which is expected to be completed in four months.

The project will see more than a kilometre of O’Meara Road transformed into a four-lane dual carriageway from the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway (CRH) up to Nutones Boulevard.

A roundabout will be installed at the intersection of Lennox Yearwood Boulevard and O’Meara Road.

Drivers heading north along O’Meara Road will have to use the roundabout as the primary means of accessing the southbound lane, as the carriageways will be separated by a solid median barrier.

Drivers heading south on O’Meara Road and turning left to go east along the highway will no longer have to wait for the traffic light, as a dedicated turnoff will be built east of the current highway intersection near Spancrete Boulevard.

Engineer at the Ministry of Works and Transport Hayden Canute-Phillip said the upgrades are a necessity, as data shows the road has not kept pace with the rate of economic development in the area.

Canute-Phillip said the upgrades will work in conjunction with the expansion of the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway.

The eastbound lane of the highway will be expanded from two lanes to three, starting from Andrew Lane and ending after the O’Meara intersection.

The expansion includes widening and rehabilitating the Mausica River Bridge, a dedicated shoulder lane for emergencies and a longer deceleration lane for drivers turning left onto O’Meara Road.

The traffic lights at the CRH-O’Meara intersection will also be upgraded with video detection camera sensors.

The camera sensors, which are already installed at Gulf City and Maloney intersections, scan traffic patterns and determine when the lights should switch between red and green.

Chief traffic engineer at the ministry Adande Piggott said the installation of the camera sensors is part of the softer approach to road upgrades and traffic improvements.

Piggott said the cameras will be fed into a national database.

“Everything has to come together into one computerised system. We have to manage traffic as best as possible within the existing infrastructure. So we will be utilising software to tie all the signals in together.”

He added that the system will come online in the coming months and will start with more than 60 traffic lights in the first instance.

Piggot said the ministry plans to introduce digital traffic signs and variable message signs to communicate with drivers.

“When the analysts are monitoring the highways, they will be able to communicate with you and let you know how long it will take from one place to another, and when there are incidents, they can use these signs throughout the country to detour you to a better route.”

He said this is all part of the ministry’s plans for incident management, which is also crucial to reducing traffic.

Piggot said the ministry has looked at international traffic-management models as a benchmark.

“We want to compare TT to other jurisdictions, because all of us travel, and all of us wish and hope and pray that we could be like more developed societies. So we are going to be doing international benchmarking and seeing where we can go, based on our economy and potential, and have a 20-30 year vision.”

He also revealed plans for pedestrian-safety initiatives, including regional corporations being mandated to dedicate at least one street to pedestrians only.

“We cannot expect to drive our way through every street to get to our final destination. We have to start to look at walkable streets, liveable streets, and promote that type of activity outside of vehicular movement.”

He added that there are plans to make Broadway in downtown Port of Spain a pedestrian-friendly zone by instituting a red-light policy.

“We want to give pedestrians the opportunity to cross safely, so, for a period, all the traffic lights will be on red and pedestrians can cross the intersection diagonally and horizontally. That will be rolled out in other municipalities outside of Port of Spain, but we will start there.”

Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan said the projects all form part of a new national transport plan.

“We have been working and operating on the last transportation plan that was approved in Trinidad and Tobago, which was in 1967. In 2015…the Minister of Finance had indicated that we will have (a new) one. It took us some time, but we are on the road to have that plan completed, and that is what will guide us in terms of all the decisions we make about land, sea and air transportation going forward.”