Frustration on roads as traffic congestion increases

28 April 2015

As published in the Cayman Compass

More than 2,000 additional vehicles were on Cayman’s roads in 2014, fueling rising traffic congestion in and around George Town.

According to the Department of Vehicle and Driver’s Licensing, 35,885 vehicles were licensed in 2014, compared to 33,649 in 2013.

“There are too many cars on the road. If we keep going like this, over a period of time, we are not going to be able to go anywhere,” said Inspector Adrian Barnett, head of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service traffic department.

Commuters from the eastern districts have reported the worsening traffic congestion, saying it can take up to an hour to travel to George Town from Savannah at peak times in the morning. The same trip outside of rush hour ordinarily takes around 10 minutes.

Government and the National Roads Authority have embarked on a road-widening program which they believe will eventually help relieve congestion.

Wil Pineau, chief executive officer of the Chamber of Commerce, said traffic issues are an ongoing source of frustration for businesses.

“Traffic congestion is becoming a way of life for many motorists, with delays during busy morning and afternoon commutes,” he said. “As Cayman’s population and the number of vehicles increases, traffic will become an even bigger issue in the future. There is a need to develop a national infrastructure plan that includes a long-range plan to set aside funding for new road development, maintenance and improvements.”

The number of licensed vehicles in 2014 represents the highest on record. Figures available on the Economics and Statistics Office website go back to 1999, when there were 22,828 licensed vehicles on the road.

The large increase in the number of vehicles in 2014 coincides with an estimated increase in population of around 2,500, a figure from another Economics and Statistics Office survey.

Inspector Barnett said the increase in vehicles, combined with generally poor driving standards, is contributing to more road accidents.

“There is too much volume of traffic for the design of the roads,” he said. The problem is compounded by the fact that there are too many roundabouts, many of which are poorly designed, and that many drivers don’t know how to use them properly, he added. “We had around 1,000 traffic accidents last year and many of them could have been avoided if the driving standards were better,” he said.

The National Roads Authority did not respond to requests for comment.

Government has already indicated it is planning to revamp roads around the capital, including widening the Linford Pierson Highway to four lanes, in an effort to deal with the problem.

Mr. Pineau said some employers are introducing staggered work hours and allowing employees to work from home because of the traffic congestion. He said promoting greater use of public transportation and carpooling could also help alleviate the problem.

But he acknowledged that many people rely on their vehicles during the day and may not be willing to compromise.

“These strategies will only be effective, however, if residents and employers are willing to promote and to accept them,” he said.  

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