Port of Spain mayor Louis Lee Sing is calling the move to reverse the West Port of Spain experimental traffic plan a "backward step"; his PNM colleague, MP for Port of Spain South Marlene McDonald, however, hails it as a "victory of the people".
The plan, implemented on July 16, has been controversial from inception, with residents and proprietors in the area complaining that it was inconvenient, with a negative impact on their livelihoods.
Yesterday, the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure, under whose purview the plan fell, announced it was rescinding the plan come September 3—the first day of the new school term.
"This is a victory for my constituents both in St James and Woodbrook. From the beginning I said any national traffic plan should take into consideration the views of all the people. My constituents are not against any national traffic plan. (This) plan affected the livelihood of the businesses in the area, the residents, senior citizens, pedestrians and last, but most important, the children. That is why I had to intervene," McDonald said in a telephone interview yesterday.
Lee Sing, on the other hand, said the taxpayer will pay for politicians' folly.
Taxpayers, according to reports, already have. New signage alone was estimated by Ministry of Works transportation planner Adnande Piggot in July to have cost almost $1 million. Additional costs, including infrastuctural, road painting, labour, maps, flyers, newspaper inserts and other informational media could mean the price for a month and a half long experiment could have been as high as $2-$3 million.
"The fact is the wishes of a small group of people have trumped the views of the much wider society. I think we set out primarily to ensure there was a smoother flow of traffic into and out of the city. That we accomplished. In making any fundamental change there will always be some people impacted in a direct, and in their minds, a negative way. That's what happened. I don't know we have allowed the plan to run the course to bring the kind of relief we desire... Come September 3, we will go back to gridlock and all the people who had been arriving at work on time with a smile on their faces will be arriving with stress," Lee Sing told the Express by phone yesterday.
McDonald admitted that the plan had certainly improved the flow of traffic to and from the city.
"But when our businesses were being killed off, people getting sent home, and elderly citizens couldn't cross the road and pedestrians couldn't catch a taxi or bus... If school had opened next week with this traffic plan in place it would have been mayhem in both Woodbrook and St James," she said.
"In my opinion, I think (Work and Infrastructure Minister Emmanuel George) acted with a keen eye. He understood the issues the constituents listed to him and he really committed to revise the plan. He said I would get back to us and I have to say I thank him and the ministry for what they have done," she added.
Lee Sing said he wanted to state "categorically" that he had "no hand in the reversal of the plan".
"I saw it on the ministry's website and then subsequent to that, Minister George called and said they took a decision to revert. I (asked) if we had done a costing of what it has done, and he said no, it will be done in a little while," he said.
He added that he had spoken to one of the engineers when he heard the news and (the engineer) expressed surprised, which lead (Lee Sing) to believe engineers were not involved in the decision to revert.
"It was a political decision made without listening to the real facts. The concerns of the people in Woodbrook and St James could have been addressed otherwise. That now does not matter. What matters is we are going back to the old ways and we will have to find bicycles to travel around the city," he said.
The plan was not about the hidden view of the people in Woodbrook and St James, but more about the public view of those who sit in transpiration for hours on end, he said.
Attempts to reach George, or his deputy, Stacy Roopnarine, were unsuccessful.