Concern raised that toll charges on Williamsfield leg of Highway 2000 could result in financial hardship

Larry Watson, CEO of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce; Claudia Morant-Baker, Councillor for the Porus Division; and Egeton Newman, head of the Transport Operators Development Sustainable Services (TODSS)
By Prince Moore    
The Jamaica Chamber of Commerce is expressing concern that toll charges on the East West leg of Highway 2000 may result in financial hardship for motorists who use the roadway on a daily basis.
The May Pen to Williamsfield leg of the highway was opened to the public on Thursday.
Operators will be able to travel on that leg of the highway free of cost for the rest of the year.
It is unclear what the toll charges will be thereafter.
Larry Watson, Chief Executive Officer of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, believes it could cost a Class One motorist more than $500,000 annually to travel daily between May Pen and Kingston if the toll is about $1154. 
"If you drive a Class Two vehicle that goes up to maybe $880,000 a year. So, cost is an issue and hopefully the volumes will increase so that the cost can come down. And I think that this three months or four months free travel on the highway will give the operators and the government an opportunity to see what kind of volumes will be at no cost," he suggested. 
Mr. Watson said, for businesses, the value of goods being transported will determine whether it will be feasible to use the highway to Williamsfield daily. 
"If you're carrying steel or cement or high value items, it clearly would suit you to go on the highway if you're going to Mandeville. However, if your product is a very low value, it can be a higher proportion of the value. Now, companies have to weigh that against the maintenance and the gap.
"If you recall going to Mandeville many years ago, you had to traverse not only through Porus, but the Melrose Hill and the wear and tear on your tyres and your car and safety is quite high. So, all in all, I think businesses will more use it. I think when companies put their vehicles in there and see the reduction in maintenance, they will continue to use it."
Business fallout?
Concern has also been raised about the economic impact the newly opened May Pen to Williamsfield leg of Highway 2000 will have on businesses in Porus, Manchester.
The US$188 million toll road will divert traffic from the usually congested Porus roadway.
Councillor for the Porus Division Claudia Morant-Baker said she is "genuinely concerned" there will be some financial fallout in the small town now that the highway is open. 
Transport operators expectant??????  
But Egeton Newman, head of the Transport Operators Development Sustainable Services (TODSS), is hopeful that the new highway will result in increased economic activities. 
"It is our hope that this infrastructure will open up new frontiers for businesses, commerce, agriculture and a wide range of things in the country. Again, we welcome it and we are hoping that the Transport Authority will look at the various licensing, with a view to make the necessary changes as it comes to them, with regards to how we travel on this thoroughfare," he said.

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