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Our transport system is in crisis Highway litigation experts coming

RAE FURLONGE TRANSPORT ENGINEER Thursday, November 8 2012

Newsday reported on Saturday November 3, 2012 that “A stop for a meal of piping hot roti ended with indigestion for the owners of 12 vehicles which were badly damaged by an out-of-control truck loaded with boulders which smashed into the vehicles on the shoulder of the south-bound lane of the Solomon Hochoy Highway in Freeport.

“According to reports, at about 2 pm, a Nissan dump truck registration number TCC 5921, was proceeding along the south bound lane of the highway when on nearing the popular Hi-way Roti shop, veered off the highway and slammed into 12 vehicles parked on the shoulder of the road.”

Three years ago in this newspaper, I wrote, “Travelling on the Solomon Hochoy Highway (SHH) can be a frightening experience, particularly during off-peak hours. The traffic speeds are usually quite high, with large trucks and vans often competing effectively with cars. And these large trucks and vans often hog the right lane of the two directional lanes.

“There is no freeway as yet in Trinidad, but the nearest example is the SHH. The shortcoming of this 26km long four-lane divided arterial road, with grade-separated diamond-type interchanges, is that there are private individual accesses [and businesses], and there are vendors and pedestrians on the highway. … in any year there is a 1 in 30 likelihood that a vehicle on the SHH may be involved in a head-on crash with another vehicle from the opposing carriageway, with usually fatal consequences; there is also a 1in 2 chance that a vehicle will be involved in a rear-end crash; and, a 1 in 3 chance that there will be an out-of-control vehicle on the route.

“What are some of the unexpected activities and obstacles on the SHH? There are (in no order of intensity of occurrences): (a) Vehicles stopping under the interchanges, such as at Preysal and at Union Road in Gasparillo to drop off or pick up passengers (b) Pedestrian and cyclists crossing, such as near Mid-Centre Mall in Chaguanas, near John Elie Road at Freeport, at Spring Village in Claxton Bay, and at Macaulay (a pedestrian overbridge was recently constructed at Carlsen Field); (c) Parking and unparking at several bars and roti shops, such as at Freeport; (d) private accesses on the highway, such as HCU Convention Centre in Freeport, Mid-Centre Mall exit, the illegal road connections, such as at Edinburgh Village and at Indian Trail; (e) Objects along the route, such as the concrete columns of the interchanges and pedestrian overbridge (including in the median); (f) The thickness and steepness of the road-edge drop off; and, the presence of very slow-moving vehicles in the traffic stream, such as backhoes and extremely overloaded trucks.

There is an urgent need for adequate access management and monitoring. There must be a complete removal and maintenance of all illegal accesses; minimisation of all private accesses, including their rationalisation, improvement and even removal; prevention and frustration of pedestrian access.

A year-and-a-half ago, I wrote “Highway access management provides three major benefits to transportation systems through managing the number of conflict points that exist along a highway corridor: (i) Increased roadway capacity; (ii) Reduced crashes; and (iii) Shortened travel time for motorists…The shoulder of a highway is exclusively for emergency stopping or parking, not for stopping for a ‘drink’ on the way to a lime, or for parking to visit a business place, etc. Yet, there is a roti shop and restaurant adjacent to the Solomon Hochoy Highway just south of the Freeport interchange, and cars and trucks are often parked on the shoulder, including police cars, particularly during lunch-time. What is now even more astonishing is that coincidently a surveillance bay is being constructed very near to this site. Could turnarounds be facilitated by this measure, so that patrons would now access the venue more easily?”

When the roadways of the SHH were repaved in both directions not too long ago, exclusive angle-parking facilities were added directly off the shoulder for the roti shop on the southbound roadway in Freeport. I am not sure who authorised that acitvity. But what you have now is an uncontrolled road that does not function as a highway. In fact, I have seen police vehicles parked there (I doubt for conducting investigations), and the police have an advantage, in that they have an exclusive turnaround location (commonly called a Surveilance Bay by them) just a few metres further south that they can easily use to return northwards, or they could continue south on the SHH.

Who authorised the construction of this parking lot on the edge of the road shoulder?

In the US, any vehicle stopped or parked on the highway will be checked on by a police officer. If there is a problem, the officer will call for assistance, such as tow-vehicle, etc. In any event, the motorist will not be allowed to “lime.”

While, the minister responsible for highways is ultimately responsible, the time will come as more and more lawyers are produced, that highway litigation experts will be employed to pursue these matters, and victims will be advised to also sue public officers, consultants, business owners, drivers of parked vehicles, etc. “toute monde,”until the “man of straw” is reached. Proper standards have to be adhered to.

e-mail: info@ccost.org

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