Crossing hazards, backups becoming commonplace
Massive increases in traffic through Grand Cayman’s eastern districts, particularly in Bodden Town, Savannah and Newlands, are making local roads more dangerous, according to residents who spoke to police about the issue Monday.
Bodden Town resident Susan Young said speeding through the narrow, two-lane roads of the once-rural district is becoming something of an epidemic.
“It used to be, 20 or 30 years ago, if you sped past a car, you knew you were going to get pulled over for speeding,” Ms. Young said. “Now, you just take your chances.”
An emphatic point was put on the traffic safety issues in late January when two young men were struck by a hit-and-run driver while walking through the crosswalk at Savannah Primary School. A 14-year-old boy from Savannah Acres suffered serious head and leg injuries in the incident, while his 21-year-old brother was treated at the Cayman Islands Hospital and released.
Royal Cayman Islands Police Service Chief Inspector Brad Ebanks said he did not believe any arrests had been made in connection with the incident, but he noted that speeding tickets issued in the district over the first two months of this year have nearly doubled.
Financial Services Minister and Bodden Town MLA Wayne Panton, who attended the police service’s public meeting at the Bodden Town Civic Centre on Monday night, asked if it was possible to install crosswalks in school zones in Bodden Town.
“That’s one of our objectives this year, to try to get those in all the school areas, in particular Savannah,” Mr. Ebanks said.
“You have four lanes there for pedestrians to pass. If you’re going towards town and you’re standing on the left side of the road … you don’t see that person.”
Another frustration for local police, and Bodden Town residents generally, has been getting through district traffic backups between 7 and 9 a.m. and again from 5 to 7 p.m., the typical rush hours.
“[You sit in traffic] and when you get to town, there’s no accident, there’s nothing,” RCIPS Superintendent Angelique Howell said. “I believe more people are [moving] out this way. People are coming to work earlier as well.”
Chief Inspector Ebanks said the problem is made worse by people “cutting through” side roads trying to beat the traffic.
“That just makes it worse,” he said. “If you had just a straight line of traffic going into town, it wouldn’t be as bad.” Minister Panton said the Progressives-led government is keenly aware of the traffic problems affecting residents in the eastern districts and that the main culprit, aside from rapid development, appears to be the lack of “through-puts” for traffic once motorists arrive in George Town. Improvements to such roads as the East-West Arterial highway only serve to send more cars into the bottleneck at the capital.
“Where we have the problem next is getting [traffic] down the Linford Pierson [Highway],” Mr. Panton said. “We’re going to be widening that to four lanes, and we’ll also widen Thomas Russell Avenue.”
The road development proposal, touted as part of government’s George Town revitalization project, has been allocated $27 million. Mr. Panton said he believes the works will begin sometime this year.
“But the reality is that this side of the island is growing. The problem of 2.7 cars per household is still there. So there are more cars out this way, more people out this way. I think that’s what some of the frustration is.”
Population growth and shifts between 2010, the year the last census was taken, and 2013, the year the last general election was held in Cayman, tell the tale.
According to the 2010 census, the population of Bodden Town district was 10,341; West Bay’s population was 11,269. By 2013, the latest date for which populations numbers are available, those figures were nearly reversed, with West Bay district’s population shrinking to 10,728 and Bodden Town’s growing to 11,243.
In addition to Bodden Town’s growth, East End district grew by about 150 residents during the same period, and George Town district grew by some 1,500.