Opinion: Our daily nightmarePOSTED: 11/29/11 7:17 AM
The solution to our daily nightmare called traffic jams is so simple that probably nobody is interested in putting it into practice. We happened to discuss this topic last weekend with a gentleman called Scot (from the pronunciation we could not establish whether we have to write his name with one or two t’s) while we were attending a fundraiser for I Love My island dog at the Bikini Beach Bar where we spent five bucks on nude pictures of St. Maarten Pride President Jadira Veen and journalist Alita Singh. (Just kidding, the ladies are depicted in a most stylish way and seemingly in their natural state on the 2011 calendar of this animal protection organization. The 2012 calendar is about to come out and this one contains pictures of local men, though we understand that some of them declined to shed their clothing).
But let us not lose track of our subject – the never-ending traffic jams. Scot is no stranger to this island as he is a timeshare owner at the Royal Palm.
He said that he is certain Theo’s plan to build a bridge over the lagoon is not going to solve the traffic-situation. It may solve some of Theo’s problems, he added helpfully, because the bridge project will partly be built on Theo’s land, and the Vice PM therefore stands to make quite some money out of his own project. We don’t know if this is true; we’re just relating what Scot told us. Being American he did not seem to have a huge problem with somebody making a quick buck. But Scot said that there is a much better solution.
We were all ears.
Look, Scot said, building that bridge is going to cost, what? Well, for starters, Volker Construction International signed a contract with the government to build the bridge for a mere $39,445,000 – that’s close to 40 million American dollars. That’s not the end of it of course because the contractor will buy some of the stuff it needs for the job from Europe. If the euro has not gone up in smoke by the time the project starts, Volker Construction will charge for these components a dollar-price based on the exchange rate. It could be less, and it could be more.
Government projects the world over have one thing in common. They end up being way more expensive than politicians tell the people or, in this case, their parliament. St. Maarten will most likely end up with a bill for close to $50 million – and we’re being conservative here.
Will the bridge solve the traffic congestion? Of course not. As long as the government does not do anything to control the number of cars on our island, and as long as public transport remains a joke, traffic jams will remain part of our daily lives.
This is where Scot comes in, and his solution is by far the simplest, and therefore also the most ingenious one we’ve become aware of up to now.
Don’t build that bridge, Scot says, but use that money to set up a public transport system. That system should be free for all people on the island, Scot says, adding that this is one way to get people out of their cars and onto the bus.
It sounds good, and that’s because Scot’s approach makes sense. Not to Theo (maybe), because our Vice PM might argue that there are other considerations in play as well. Building a large infrastructural project means employment; it will keep young men occupied with something else than robbing tourists and supermarkets.
While this is undoubtedly true, the value of the project itself is debatable, to say the least. What if we still have those darn traffic jams after Theo has built his bridge over troubled water? What will the next step be?
We figure it is not too late to consider Scot’s alternative. So we’re asking out Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Public Works (we don’t particularly like the lengthy title we’d have to serve our readers if we spelled out the name of the Vromi-ministry) to think about this and to halt his bridge-project for the time being.
What about commissioning a solid traffic-study? One that will give us the numbers that show how much traffic goes where at which time of the day and the year? We’re sure Scot would appreciate that, and maybe such a study will show that we don’t need that bridge (or the sandpit some people call the ring road) at all if we set up a good public transport system.