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Traffic Congestion in Castries to Be Eased

MOTORISTS navigating Castries should expect an ease in congestion in the coming year, as plans to prepare a traffic circulation plan aimed at relieving traffic conditions, parking, and the safe movement of pedestrians in the downtown Castries city area, get underway.

Activities to accomplish this Plan are being spearheaded by the Ministry of Tourism, Information and Broadcasting, Culture and Creative Industries, which has contracted the Danish based firm, COWI, under the OECS Regional Tourism Competitiveness Project (ORTCP).

The Danish Based consultants, who are engaged to prepare the traffic circulation Plan, are currently consulting with relevant stakeholders in Castries to get an idea of the prevailing issues that are contributing to traffic congestion at peak periods. So far, discussions have been held with the St Lucia Air and Sea Ports Authority, Council for Public Transport, Holiday Taxi Association, Cox and Company, National Council for People with Disabilities, and the Castries Constituencies Council (CCC). Over the next few weeks, discussions will be held with representatives of several relevant government departments before making recommendations on how to improve the flow of vehicles and pedestrians, in order to improve the safety, and better the experience in Castries, for both locals and tourists.

Head of the ORTCP, Dr Lorraine Nicholas contends that “the traffic congestion has the potential to adversely impact business in Castries and by extension, the economy of the island. It not only slows down urban traffic, but contributes to make downtown Castries unattractive for tourists, and creates a security hazard for all pedestrians, both local and foreign. Moreover, it creates a negative image for Saint Lucia that can only reduce its destination appeal,” she added.

The Traffic Study is an important initiative for the Ministry of Tourism, as it will address an age old issue that has recently been compounded by the fact that large cruise ships berth near the city and passengers are deposited within a few yards of Jeremie Street – a primary street which connects northbound traffic navigating the city. On cruise ship days, more than 60 taxi operators also occupy Jeremie Street, further cramming an already crowded downtown area.

To alleviate this situation, Dr Nicholas observes that “improving urban mobility and accessibility is critical not just for motorists and local pedestrians, but for tourism enhancement. The idea is to introduce a programme of low cost/high return measures that would be easy to implement with minimal disruptions to city life.”

As part of the plan, the consultants, under the Ministry, will deliver a traffic plan for downtown Castries; complete the redesign of the Jeremie Street/Compton Highway intersection; plan and detail design of improvements for efficient movement of pedestrians and public transport vehicles around La Place Carenage; plan and detail design of other improvements in intersections (including specifications for traffic lights) and walkways in downtown Castries and conduct an assessment of training needs, and on-the-job development to improve the capacity of key governmental departments involved in urban mobility in the broader Castries urban area.

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