Commuters air woes over traffic

Residents took to Bodden Town Civic Centre Thursday night to vent their frustrations over traffic jams that have gridlocked Grand Cayman in recent weeks.

A crowd of more than 100 people told government ministers and roads officials they were fed up with the recent escalation in traffic problems.

Residents in the eastern districts have been worst hit, with some reporting journey times of nearly two hours to reach George Town during morning rush hour.

Some said an increase in car imports, with 400 new vehicles arriving on island every month, as well as parents struggling to get their kids to school because of an early start time, were contributing to the traffic nightmare.

The meeting was hosted by Bodden Town East MLA Dwayne Seymour, who was joined by Minister of Infrastructure Joey Hew and others.

Anthony Eden, MLA for Savannah, said a dependable transport service was needed.

The worst gridlocks were coming off Anton Bodden Drive by Bodden Town Primary School; Will T Road; Condor Road by Savannah Primary School; the Chrissie Tomlinson roundabout; and sections of Red Bay, Grand Harbour and Linford Pierson Highway, according to Tristan Hydes, deputy chief officer in the infrastructure ministry.

Hew assured residents the government is working on immediate solutions for the problem, such as finalising initiatives with the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service and the National Road Authority and supporting funding for off-duty officers to operate at certain roads. Other solutions being considered are adjusting the timing of traffic lights; restricting left turns into certain roads; creating merge lanes; reversing the flow of traffic; adding extra lanes and working on the East-West Arterial.

But some residents still weren’t buying it.

Andrew McLaughlin said the change of school start times was a major factor contributing to the traffic jams and suggested government move back the times. At the start of the new school year, government moved the start time for some schools from 8:30am to 8am.
Hew encouraged residents to lobby their case with the Department of Education to change the school times back.

Moderator Vincent Frederick suggested more highways needed to be built.

Prospect MLA Austin Harris, NRA director Edward Howard and Inspector Fernando Soto from the police also joined the panel discussion.

Councillor Harris offered his recommendations on how to improve the traffic situation. Among his suggestions were for people selling vehicles to have a trade and business licence; holders of work permits of one year or longer required to purchase cars from local suppliers rather than importing them; private schools to operate buses for students; and vehicles brought to the island to be no more than 10 years old.

Seymour said most of the cars imported were moving his way in the Bodden Town area because it was the fastest-growing district.

“We need to stop building roads and looking at a tram system,” he said, adding that traffic problems are “too important for us to play politics with”.

On Friday, police announced a trial effort to address the traffic jams. Anton Bodden Drive will be temporarily closed to westbound traffic between 6am and 8am this week. Traffic travelling westward along Bodden Town Road, towards George Town, will not be permitted to turn onto Anton Bodden Drive during these hours; only local access will be permitted. Eastbound traffic will be unaffected.

The closure will be in effect on a trial basis for one week, until Friday, 11 Oct., after which it will be re-evaluated if necessary.