Mon | Dec 17, 2018

Garth Rattray | They don’t really care about us

Published:Monday | November 19, 2018 | 12:00 AM
If you’ve been feeling like the road works have required you to pay a hefty emotional toll, you are not alone. Our commutes have become longer, we’re losing time, we feel hurried at work or at home, and our efforts to plan around the traffic don’t work out at times. It is an overall stressful time.

Politically polarised individuals take umbrage whenever I criticise the way that the 'legacy roads' projects are being carried out. Critical errors include: suboptimal detours, no dry runs of traffic redeployment, no directional signs on the detour routes, and no regular police patrols along them.

Access to residences and businesses are deemed unimportant. There is no preservation or temporary relocation of road and business signs. Telephone and cable lines are not being protected; there are no established communication channels for citizens during the roadworks, and there are no regular prior notifications of water and power interruptions.

But, most egregious of all, after years of education, dedication, sacrifice, paying all sorts of taxes, and hard work, the survival and future of numerous affected businesses come down to the knowledge, mood, and whims of flag personnel. Clearly, they never underwent any training or even familiarisation exercises to allow them to be able to detour commuters sensibly. And they should have been issued cell phones or radios so that they could communicate with others to learn of changes and how to re-route commuters.

Whenever flag personnel are absent from accessible but severely restricted and/or dangerous paths along roadways, the traffic snarls and is backed up for hours. And, if flag personnel are on duty, they have the authority to wave commuters left, right, or turn them back. They also have the power to let them go through the barrier (as long as it is safe) in order to access homes, businesses, medical facilities, pharmacies, medical labs/X-rays/ultrasounds, and so on.

There are always alternative routes to homes and businesses, but many flag personnel are unaware of them, so they stop residents, employers, employees, customers, clients, and/or ill patients and turn them back without redirection. And sometimes they feel so ornery that they don't care whether or not commuters are lost. I heard a female flag person telling her male co-worker that he should point people where to drive. He was miffed about something and retorted, "If dem waah fi laas, mek dem laas!"

Furthermore, if flag personnel wave commuters into areas for detour, they might as well tell them to go to hell because there are absolutely no signs showing directions. Unless commuters are very familiar with the area, it's a matter of following someone (sometimes it's the blind leading the blind) or meandering around until they glimpse or accidentally come upon a way out of the maze.

I've heard folks talk about extortion and even armed robberies along some of the back-road detours. Vehicles have been stuck in deep holes and open trenches. People are getting sick, falling, and the risk of serious injury is high, especially when it rains. Pedestrians (including the elderly and babies) must endure long, arduous, hazardous treks because of a lack of transport, thick dust clouds, mounds of dirt, mud, streets flooded by rain or broken mains, dangerous open trenches, dangerous heavy equipment and vehicles as they are forced to walk in the middle of the roadways.

Complaints about inaccessibility, disrupted communication and loss of businesses are being ignored, and I'm reasonably certain that they will also ignore the revelation that flag personnel are literally killing businesses. The 'legacy roads' projects are providing (temporarily) employment for some, but they are also crippling businesses and are putting, and will put, many more permanently employed persons out of work.

Survival is impossible without roads, modern technology, dependable amenities and income to meet expenses. Our citizens are being disrespected and abused. It doesn't augur well for a government that does nothing to protect us or alleviate the despicable treatment of its citizenry. Besides our taxes and votes, they don't really care about us.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.