Speed of Cayman: No ‘fast lane’ in a traffic jam

Just to keep up with the accelerating pace of the wider world, the Cayman Islands as a country needs to increase its velocity, and get things done more quickly. But instead of moving faster, all too often we find ourselves stuck — in traffic.

Case in point: The construction on Smith Road, which has clogged a vital artery to and from the concentration of schools in George Town, resulting in enigmatic detours, frustrated motorists and queues of cars that are even longer than usual.

The purpose of this editorial is not to complain about traffic congestion, or the inevitable, though irritating, consequences of major roadwork. The widening of Smith Road is long overdue and sorely needed. When finished, it will be a boon to commuters and parents, and will also facilitate the valiant efforts of Grand Cayman’s ambulance crews as they race to and from the nearby Cayman Islands Hospital.

No, our issue is not with the work being done on Smith Road, but with its timing. Obstructing a crucial corridor linking schools and town is one thing — doing that during the beginning of the school year is another. And the Smith Road project is expected to continue through September and October … though hopefully officials are correct in their expectations that problems will lessen as the work moves to the west.

While roads officials may protest about land acquisitions, utility relocations and other unforeseen circumstances setting back schedules, from our view in the bleachers, we observe a situation that is the result of an absence of urgency.

Back in mid-March, nearly six months ago, the Compass reported on the National Roads Authority’s plans to widen, first, Godfrey Nixon Way and, then, Smith Road. At the time, NRA director Paul Parchment said work on Godfrey Nixon Way would begin the week of March 23, and work on Smith Road would start in early April.

The widening of Godfrey Nixon Way didn’t start until the week of April 6, three weeks after Mr. Parchment’s initial prediction. Heavy precipitation and a collapsed manhole delayed completion of the Godfrey Nixon Way widening (another much-needed project that, by the way, is now functioning quite well) until late May.

The roadwork on Smith Road, then, didn’t begin in earnest until early July. If it had begun in early April as originally intended, then a four-month time line would have meant the widening would have been completed sometime in August, before the start of the school year. And instead of mornings of moaning about wasted fuel, squandered time and an accumulation of tardy slips, people in Cayman would be offering praise and applause about a job well done, and well-timed.

The government’s lackadaisical approach to road construction is indicative of Cayman’s approach to many things, in too many instances — in the private sector as well as the public sector.

Don’t get us wrong, we here at the Compass love being on “island time” as much as the next person. That phrase, however, connotes leisure and freedom from stress; being too slow in the conduct of business, execution of projects and provision of services has the opposite effects.

Think about that the next time you are delayed by someone else’s inertia. Where would you rather be spending those moments: ensconced in your car, waiting in line, on hold on the phone — or lying in a hammock?


  1. And it will be worst as it’s rainy season which means more delay. It’s really poor planning by those at the helm at NRA.

    Traffic sucks in the Cayman Islands!

  2. I certainly must agree with these concerns, because some departments, especially those mentioned, show much lackadaisical in their work. Then one may wonder if it is the top bosses or the workers. I say it is both, because you will try and follow up on much needed projects to those that call the shots; only to have them become annoyed with you because of asking; while at the same time the workers are complaining along side the road that they are not paid enough, and just go out there and do a half-ass job of leaning up on shovels along side the road, sitting down and eating every five minutes or just absolutely doing nothing.
    What is really happening in Cayman is that Companies need to make sure they have efficient supervisors to get their jobs done, not those who join in with workers in complaining. Too late were are already in the fast lane by choice, so I would say drive or come off the highway.

  3. At first, I agree that the timing of this construction is ridiculous, since I have kids attending schools on Smith Road.
    However, stating the NRA is lackadaisical, implying that the hard working construction folks are too, is wrong.
    There may be many, many reasons for the delay in starting–getting permits, acquiring private land from property owners, moving underground pipes, moving utility poles, internet lines, etc. Has anyone on your editorial ever done any remodeling in a home? Once you start digging up the floors or tearing a down a wall, you never know what may be found!
    I realize this is an editorial, but far to often I read CIG bashing by the Compass which leads to more and more disunity between the country’s leaders, members of the civil service and the rest of us living here. You should have at least dedicated a paragraph to a response from the NRA.

  4. @brian roberts

    ….getting permits, acquiring private land from property owners, moving underground pipes, moving utility poles, internet lines.. is called a pre-construction phase.

    Remodeling in a home also starts with knowing what you want to accomplish and how,not blindly digging up the floors or tearing a down a wall never knowing what may be found. May be 50-70 years ago it was the case. In the year 2015 you hire professionals in the pre-remodeling phase who have technology to tell you exactly what is inside the walls and the state of your floors and foundation. Unless you do it yourself as an amateur or to save money.

  5. @L Bell

    Really, there”s technology to tell you exactly what’s behind the drywall or concrete–please enlighten us. Are radiographing the walls? Are they using ultrasound? I have to find such professionals with that type of equipment.
    All of the pre-construction planning in the world will not stop someone from disputing eminent domain in the courts.
    Have you ever been to NYC–do you really think they know whats under the streets?

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