Infrastructure Ministry addresses Median controversy

The median barrier dividing the four lanes along the Choc highway has been the center of attention in the last few months after it consistently remains the ‘spot’ for many head-on collisions leaving many drivers injured and some, even succumbing to their injuries.
The most recent tragic accident that took the life of Matthew Moses of Ti Morne, Union on the eve of Easter weekend has created a unified call among concerned citizens for the Ministry of Infrastructure to address the situation.
Many have called talk shows echoing their frustrations with the median near Sandals Halcyon just days after the death of Moses which has prompted the much public debate about what should be done to safeguard motorists driving along the highway.
While many are of the view that nothing is being done with the barrier, Deputy Chief Engineer within the Ministry of Infrastructure says that is not the case.                 Albert Jn Baptiste told the STAR that the ministry has, for some time now, been planning to implement the best solution to address the issue. Jn Baptiste informed us that meetings were held with key stakeholders including the Insurance Council, Traffic Department of the Royal St Lucia Police Force, National Council of Public Transportation, Driving Examiner, SOS Driving School and C&M Touring Services.
“It is a very unfortunate situation we have and I honestly lament the loss of life we have had. The ministry as an agency of government that plays a very key role in terms of traffic safety has a responsibility to do something about that; there are no two-ways about it,” said Jn Baptiste.
He went on: “We have started looking at the situation and there are a number of different options. One option is to extend the median barrier all the way to the Choc round-about. The other option is to modify the end of the barrier and it can be modified in different ways. There are various options that are available in that regard. One possibility is to create a taper and the taper can be created in different ways; it can have different geometry.”
Jn Baptiste also explained the possibility of placing warning systems on the road itself. He pointed out how the rumble strips in Reunion, Choiseul overlooking the village has helped motorists to be aware of the dangerous bend ahead. This mechanism, Jn Baptiste believes will also help motorists traveling along the Choc highway to reduce their speed as they approach the median just around the bend.
“There is also the possibility of using what is called loosely, flexible bollards which are basically rubber posts,” explained Jn Baptiste.
According to the Deputy Chief, unlike the concrete barrier the flexible bollards will not create any major damage to vehicles that come into contact with it. Rather, the rubber posts would serve as a warning for drivers who have ventured beyond their designated lane.
“So we can place this before you approach the barrier up to a certain distance or we can take it all the way up to the Choc round-about. All of these are some of the options we currently have right now and we further have the option of incorporating more than one in the plan. In fact, one of the things we are looking at is the possibility of the taper combined with the flexible posts” he said.
Addressing possible concerns of the taper, Jn Baptiste explained although a vehicle approaching at high speed may flip when it comes into contact with the taper, a combination of the taper and flexible posts will avert such a result.
“The posts will alert you that you are approaching this thing therefore, you would slow down before you reach the danger ahead. You would have to be dead drunk that you have no idea of what is happening to ignore the posts and run straight into the taper; maybe there might be a possibility of a flip.”
Tapers are used on most major highways internationally to help in speed reduction or in the control of traffic. They are idealized in specifications as a perfect triangle which rises up to meet the height of a barrier or median as the case may be at Choc.
No word was given as to when the project will commence or how much it will cost taxpayers but Jn Baptiste indicated that the orders are already being processed and it is the cheapest and fastest way to address the situation before many more motorists add to the increasing statistic of that section of the Choc Highway.
Jn Baptiste also took some time to explain that the ministry will look at the possibility of placing a pedestrian-walk-over near the Rodney Bay junction. This area is plagued with a heavy flow of traffic rendering it difficult at times for pedestrians to cross the road. Jn Baptiste believes that safety of pedestrians including that of tourists visiting the north of the island is of utmost priority to the ministry.
He indicated that although there have not been any incidents relating to vehicle-pedestrian injuries in the area, the ministry, according to him, will not wait for an incident to occur before looking at that possibility.

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