Report shows traffic volume doesn’t justify EWA

| 07/02/2023 | 157 Comments
Cayman News Service
East-West Arterial Road extension plans (provided by the NRA)

(CNS): A transport review by Ardent Consulting Engineers of the proposal for the controversial East-West Arterial Road extension found that it is not justified on traffic volume alone and will not improve the traffic troubles for those living in the Eastern Districts. The independent report shows that the real cause of the congestion is the funnel effect around Grand Harbour and that traffic patterns reveal it is pinch-points west of the proposed road where conflicting streams of traffic need to be managed.

The UK consultants were commissioned to undertake the report by local conservationists in Cayman in partnership with the UK charity, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. The author of the report, Kevin Kay, a divisional director with the engineering consultants, said the existing single-carriageway road already meets the current and expected traffic demands for residents in the Eastern Districts.

While improvements to junction capacity could help in certain locations, the key problem areas are much closer to George Town and they will not be addressed by this proposed three-lane highway cutting through the Central Mangrove Wetlands, the report found.

“On the face of it, the recorded traffic volumes should be within the link capacity of the road network to accommodate,” Kay wrote in the report. “The levels of traffic recorded on the eastern sections would not seem to justify the creation of the EWA Extension, based on current traffic flows. Even if one was to account for the anticipated level of growth in the eastern districts, and the consequential increase in traffic that would occur as a result, it is difficult to see how the NRA could justify any infrastructure beyond the Hirst Road-Shamrock Road connector.”

The report indicates that the section of the proposed road from Hirst Road to Lookout Gardens may open up land for development, but “it would not appear to be justifiable based on highway capacity alone”. The arguments to support the Frank Sound stretch are even more doubtful on traffic grounds alone.

Although the proposed road would cut journey times, which Kay said was an important factor for the National Roads Authority’s consideration, he found that there are alternatives that would reduce commute duration for residents in East End and North Side by the same amount. He said the local traffic data he reviewed shows that much of the shorter journey times that officials here believe the EWA would provide could be achieved through the widening of Bobby Thomspon Way.

“What the… data suggests is that the effect of infrastructure improvements taking place on existing highway corridors would be far greater than those which could be achieved by the EWA Extension,” Kay found. “It would therefore seem beneficial to prioritise those infrastructure projects that rely on the existing roads, rather than through the creation of new roads, with the environmental implications that this would entail.”

He pointed out that by focusing on the longest trips, the data has been skewed toward the apparent benefits of the EWA, when in fact the majority of drivers would be making shorter trips and not using the last and most environmentally damaging part of the road. The review states that the focus should be on journey times from Bodden Town, which is expected to generate more traffic as the population there continues to grow.

Kay found that other existing gazetted roads and proposed projects in that area could be undertaken instead that would smooth out the traffic jams. “Other highway improvements could be implemented to provide further East-West connectivity through corridors that are parallel to Shamrock Road, but without resorting to the level of infrastructure proposed through the EWA Extension,” Kay found.

But with the pinch-points really much further west where traffic from multiple locations converge in areas where the NRA is already doing work, the report argues that the case for the EWA extension is unfounded on the grounds of traffic benefits alone. Kay suggests that the rationale for the EWA is partly driven by a need to access more land for development, but if government wants to address the traffic there are other options.

The BP40, which was gazetted in 1979 from Manse Road to Pedro Castle, with an intermediate connection with Beach Bay Road, is now part of a deal between the government and the developers of the propose Beach Bay Hotel, but this has still not begun. This review suggests that this road would offer similar benefits in a much shorter time frame than the East-West Arterial Extension and with less consequent impacts.

Other road improvement projects currently underway could also be more helpful, but Kay said it was too early to establish the journey time savings benefits that they would offer. But the projects around George Town are likely to have a greater effect overall because they will cater for the needs of a greater number of users than the EWA extension.

Improving buses, encouraging cycling, dealing with the number of cars on the road and other issues are also noted in the review, including the fact that 67% of children are being taken to school in private cars, which is a massive part of Grand Cayman’s traffic issues. Kay said school travel planning or the creation of a ‘Safer Routes to School’ programme or the introduction of free or discounted bus for all students could go a long way to tackling the traffic congestion.

Summing up his research, Kay said the “funnelling” effect of high levels of traffic at peak times on the edge of George Town is the main problem. The widening of Linford Pierson Way, Crewe Road and Shamrock Road as well as the existing sections of the East-West Arterial Road are more likely to reduce traffic than the significant level of infrastructure through the mangroves that the EWA requires.

“It is also the case that other forms of intervention could be implemented by the government to ‘manage down’ the impact of traffic… with investment in alternative modes of transport such as public transport, active travel infrastructure and other demand management measures,” the review found.

Th public meetings on the terms of reference for the environmental impact assessment for this road begin tomorrow night in North Side. According to the scoping document published last week, the engineers contracted to undertake that exercise will be expected to consider alternatives to the road. In his review, Kay said they should also include a benefit-cost ratio of the project and whether or not it “confers sufficient value-for-money to justify its implementation”.

That should not be limited to the construction and maintenance costs for the scheme but also any mitigation measures that would be required, particularly in the Central Mangroves, Kay said.

The NRA plans two meetings this week on the EIA terms of reference, the first at 6pm Tuesday in North Side at the district civic centre, and the second on Thursday in Savannah at the CI Baptist Church Hall, 163 Pedro Castle Road. The public is also invited to submit comments before the short window of opportunity for people to weigh in on the project closes in just two weeks on 21 February.

Comments on the draft ToR can be submitted in writing to the Environmental Assessment Board
c/o the DoE via email, post, or hand delivery to the
Department of Environment Office.

See the transport review in the CNS Library.

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Category: development, Local News

Comments (157)

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  1. just me. says:

    The problem seems to be that most people from all around the island have to congregate to just one area to work and go to school. Why not ask Dart (just because he can) to build another Caymana bay type office area in the middle of the island to spread things out? And maybe send some of the kids to the little used Frank Sound school? Just a thought.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Agree with the analysis here. ALL efforts should be focussed on the Prospect area into Town/Camana Bay.

    Putting another funnel (EWA extension) so that we can all merge into chaos from Prospect onwards just doesn’t make sense. Start with the root of the problem and work backwards.

  3. Anonymous says:

    You have a gold rush on your hands. Cheer up, things could be worse: T&C, Jamaica, Cuba, Haiti, DR, Bahamas, Honduras, Grenada, St. Vincent, etc.

  4. Anonymous says:

    this simple fact is that it is impossible to build your way out of traffic problems, all you will ever do is change the shape of the traffic jam. No country in history has evever had any success in doing this.

    the only solution is to reduce the amount of vehicle using the road so you must either provide a robust and reliable public transport system or out laws in place that limit the number of cars on the road at a given time and creat a system to support and inforce these laws.

    anything else is a waste of money.

    • Anonymous says:

      Certain car plates are only allowed into Mexico City on certain alternating days, and they have some of the best bike lanes in the world. Over 35 min people. You can’t just announce a car fatwa without a workable alternative.

      • Anonymous says:

        Over population has destroyed the world. Imagine having to live under that regime ? You must only drive your car on Wednesday. If we don’t take steps to slow our reproduction rate as humans, pretty soon nature will take care of the problem for us.

  5. Anonymous says:

    One of the greatest problem is that everyone has to be to school or work between 8 to 8:30 therefore, the traffic will always be.
    Maybe taking some of the business up to eastern districts would help balance the amount of vehicles coming into the Town area all at the same time. Where possible have more persons work from home, or even think about changing the work hours for some people.


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