'GIVE IT A CHANCE': A layout of the Diego Martin Highway Expansion project.

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Traffic changes for Diego

By Julien Neaves

THE CLOSING of the dangerous "bow-tie turn" into Carenage and a new signalised intersection at Morne Coco Road were some of the plans announced by the Works Ministry for the traffic- plagued Diego Martin area.

A public meeting on the Diego Martin Highway Expansion project and associated projects was held on Tuesday night at the Diego Martin Community Centre.

Civil engineer Rose Marie Maraj-Wright spoke on the changes including two new northbound lanes from Victoria Gardens to Acton Court and the Diego Martin Main Road to be made two-way traffic up to Victoria Gardens.

She noted the intersection on the Diego Martin Road at the "big tree" will be replaced with traffic lights and the turn to head back into Port of Spain will be closed. This aspect of the project was a source of concern to a number of residents who predicted there will be a traffic pile- up at the lights.

Programme for Upgrading Road Efficiency (PURE) unit project engineer Charlene Augustin-Bastaldo said lights were necessary for safe crossing of schoolchildren and a walkover was not feasible as it would require further land acquisition.

Works Minister Emmanuel George in response noted that there were traffic lights at various points along the Diego Martin Highway and asked residents to "give it a chance". He noted that if it did not work out they would seek an alternative.

Another area of contention was the closing of the turn off to Carenage...with the changes motorists will have to proceed along the Western Main Road, utilise the turn by the Foreshore and head back north. George said this represented "no significant inconvenience" as the current turn was dangerous and "safety is paramount".

Augustin-Bastaldo also reported on the construction of a lay-by for taxis and maxis to drop off passengers at Starlite Shopping Plaza scheduled to begin at the end of this month. She noted the project will cost TT$5.6 million, should be completed in five months and most of the works will take place at night to not obstruct traffic.

Chief planning engineer of roads Michael McKenzie, speaking on the Diego Martin Highway Extension to Diego Martin Main Road/Bagatelle, said the project was catering for development "ten years down the road". He noted that it required feasibility studies, economic evaluations, environmental impact assessments and preliminary engineering designs. The projected start is January 2014 and it would be completed in a year's time.

One resident who said he would have to be removed for this project expressed concern about how much advance notice he would receive.

"I don't want to wake up in the morning and see a backhoe in front my house," he commented.

Director of Highways, Roger Ganesh said that home owners had be to served within a two-month period, to which attendees murmured disapprovingly. Ministry deputy permanent secretary Roger Israel reassured that there is no set time frame for relocation and it could take years.

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