Opinion: St. Maarten Traffic situation

POSTED: 10/24/11 2:11 AM

Nothing gets people going better than a good old traffic jam. We have seen it in Dutch Quarter, where motorists routinely ignore the traffic light that is supposed to regulate the traffic past a point where there is only one lane available and we have of course seen it in Simpson Bay where the situation will remain some kind of vehicular war zone until the contractor finishes the welfare road upgrade project by December 9.
Traffic from Marigot towards Philipsburg has been forced to hang a right near the Harley Davidson store on Union Road and to follow Orange Grove road towards Simpson Bay, where the traffic had to merge with cars coming from the direction of the airport.
In the meantime, Union road from the Kruijthoff roundabout towards the Harley Davidson store had been made one-way.
Everybody knows the result: long traffic lines in Simpson Bay, desperate entrepreneurs, and frustrated motorists. The frustration reached boiling point on occasion when certain cars equipped with flashing blue lights demanded priority. Usually those cars carried members of the government. The blue lights, we have been made to understand, miss a legal basis, so it is fair to say that the members of the cabinet are routinely breaking the law. What else is new?
But hey, last week the whiz kids that design the traffic flow around the Welfare road works got an idea. They reopened the Union road from the Kruijthoff roundabout towards the Harley Davidson store for two-way traffic. Brilliant!
At least, this was the reaction we received from a reader, who noted that after this measure was put into effect, there was “for the first time in two or three months no traffic at all.” And that was not, he pointed out because the police was controlling the situation or because a big man delegation had found a solution. O this was due to the reopening of the Union road (as described above) for two-way traffic.
“Duh!” or reader wrote. Why did that road section close in the first place? No works have been carried out there.”
All those traffic jams, he wrote, were caused by cars coming from Marigot and Cole Bay that wanted to go to Philipsburg, and got stuck at the point where they had to join the traffic coming from the airport.
Our reader went as far as calling closing the Union road for two-way traffic a stupid decision. Who is going to pay for the damages this has caused?
Ah, that’s an easy question: the government is …. Not going to pay any damages. That’s because the work on the Welfare road is a necessary and long overdue upgrade. By the time the contractor packs up in December, the traffic misery will be quickly forgotten.
But wait a minute; did opening the Union road for two-way traffic really help? On Saturday, we cruised from Marigot towards Philipsburg. And what did we encounter? A traffic jam that stretched from the Harley Davidson store all the way back to the Kruijthoff roundabout, all the way over the hill, past Harold Jack, and practically ending at the roundabout atop the A.J.C. Brouwers Road.
Later in the evening, when we returned from a visit to the cinema in Simpson Bay, it was a pleasure driving towards the Kruijthoff roundabout. Indeed, no traffic jam at all. But we got second thoughts when we saw, again, the traffic jam on the Union road towards Marigot. So instead, we went over the hill, again admiring the lengthy traffic jam coming from the direction of Philipsburg, and drove through Dutch Quarter back home.
The conclusion? Opening Union Road between the Harley Davidson store and the Kruijthoff roundabout did not solve anything. It just moved the problem to a different spot. Because now, the traffic that comes down from Philipsburg that wants to go to Simpson Bay, gets stuck at the Harley Davidson place because it has to battle all the traffic coming from Marigot that is now allowed to go straight.
Duh! We’ll just have to wait until December before things are really getting better.

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