Two weeks ago I wrote a blog post entitled Barbican Square Roadworks: An Example of Government Disregard for People’s Safety. In it I shared photos and thoughts about the safety risks posed to drivers and pedestrians by the ongoing roadwork being done in and around Barbican Square. I indicated that I had made an Access to Information (ATI) request to the National Works Agency (NWA) and promised to share any information I received in response. So, that’s what I am doing today.
I must say, first of all, that I am very pleased with the timely response by NWA. I wish all government bodies responded so quickly!
On Friday, March 9, 2018, I submitted by email my request for:
1. All written regulations/guidelines/protocols/requirements for the provision of warnings/precautions/etc during road work/construction/repairs. This would include, for example, requirements for barriers, warning lights, reflective tape, cones, flag men, etc.
2. Any requirements specifically for the construction now taking place in and around the Barbican Square area.
On Monday, March 12, 2018, I received an acknowledgement of receipt of my request.
On Tuesday, March 27, 2018, I received two documents in response to my request.
National Works Agency Temporary Traffic Control Template
The document sent in response to the first of my requests is entitled the National Works Agency Temporary Traffic Control Template ; the cover indicates that it was last revised in July 2015. In six sections, it sets out the information that needs to be included when a temporary traffic plan for a project is submitted to the NWA.
An overview of the project is required…
…and a list of “the responsibilities of key personnel involved in the development of the project” (2.0 TPM Team – Roles and Responsibilities). The Work Zone Impact Assessment (3.0) should include details such as the length of the project, whether road closures and detours will be necessary, whether any temporary structures will be needed to facilitate the movement of traffic and pedestrians, an assurance that there will be access for emergency vehicles, whether any utilities will be affected and what the hours of operation will be.
Section 4.0 refers to the traffic control devices to be used and recommends that planners refer to the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices Section 6C. I haven’t yet found reference to a Jamaican document by that name and wonder if the reference is to a US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration document by that name. Section 6C of that document is about Temporary Traffic Control Elements and is certainly relevant. It specifically mentions that the needs of people with disabilities should be taken into consideration, the absence of which was one of my concerns about the situation in the Barbican Square area.
It is somewhat ironic that the sample template given in the document uses Barbican Road as its fictional project.
Section 5.0 – Project Alterations – requires that if there are any changes to the scope of the project and additional work zones not in the initial Traffic Management Plan are added, the original plan must be resubmitted with all the proposed amendments. Section 6.0 gives a list of relevant terms, and an Appendix is required with all the sign dimensions and diagrams.
2. CHEC Traffic Management Plan for Barbican Road Improvement Project MIDP
The second document I received is entitled Traffic Management Plan for Barbican Road Improvement Project MIDP (Major Infrastructure Development Programme) and is a China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd (CHEC) document dated 28th September, 2017. It is stamped as having been received on September 29, 2017 by NWA Technical Services.
It is a six page document (including the cover) divided into three sections: 1. Profile, 2. General idea, 3. Traffic Management Plan. There are four diagrams in the Traffic Management Plan; this is the diagram on page 5.
The details of the diagrams may be easier to understand when you look at the original document, as the images and legend are not very clear in the copy I received. The details of the plan may also be easier to understand if you are familiar with the project as a whole or if you have training and experience relevant to such planning and construction. I, however, come to this issue as a member of the public who had to travel through the area two weeks ago and was appalled by what I saw. And I find it difficult to understand from this document exactly what provisions were being planned to ensure the safety of people who would have to navigate the area by car or on foot.
I can’t easily tell what specific traffic control devices are to be placed where and when. I don’t know what the timeline for the four steps or phases are. I don’t know if the provisions of this plan were in effect or were supposed to be in effect on the two days I went through the area. What I do know is that on the days I drove and walked through, I saw no organised traffic management, one traffic sign in the vicinity of the Square and multiple hazards posing dangerous risks to both pedestrians and drivers.
The traffic management plan makes this statement: “We should set a flag lady on the flag zone to direct the traffic.” On the days I was there, I saw no sign of any flag lady or man directing traffic in any area of the work in the vicinity of the Square.
I don’t know if the NWA thinks that this Traffic Management Plan meets the requirements of the NWA’s Temporary Traffic Control Template. I don’t know if the NWA deems this Traffic Management Plan to be adequate for the scale of work being undertaken in the vicinity of Barbican Square. I don’t know if it is representative of the plans generally submitted. I don’t know if there is any monitoring done on site to see if provisions laid out in submitted plans are implemented. I don’t know if the NWA has at any point evaluated the safety situation of the work being done for the Barbican Road Improvement Project.
There is a lot that I still don’t know, but there is one thing that I am certain of. The situation I saw on March 8 & 9 was a clear example of Government disregard for people’s safety.
I will be making some more ATI requests and I will share any further documents I receive.
“This week, share an image of your happy place, a secret spot you love, or a faraway location you return to again and again.”
My rooftop has featured in a number of my Weekly Photo Challenge posts. It’s really a favourite place of mine. A large, flat, rather unimpressive concrete slab roof…
with a gravelly surface. But I love it for the view it provides of the world around me. At sunrise, when the chilly morning air provides a wonderful contrast to the hot tea I often drink there.
At sunset, in those serene, sometimes spectacular moments which signal the coming end to the day, whatever the day was like. In the dead of night, when the moon or a planet or a constellation of stars beckons and I marvel at how large “out there” is. My rooftop….a nearby location I return to again and again….
I know very little about the building across the road from the General Penitentiary (now called the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre), but have wondered about its history. It is a striking building, even in its derelict state.
I noticed it some time ago on a visit to the prison, which is itself in need of much repair and is certainly not suited for housing the men it does. The overcrowded, inhumane conditions do not lend themselves to the rehabilitation of the inmates in the custody of the state. Perhaps the condition of the building across the road is a visible reminder of things that have fallen apart.
The Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT) has concluded a Heritage Assessment on lands situated at the General Penitentiary Staff Club and Support Facilities compound along Tower Street, Kingston Jamaica. This Heritage Assessment was carried out in response to the National Housing Trust’s (NHT) proposed development of inner city housing solutions on these lands
A team from the JNHT carried out an archaeological appraisal (survey) and architectural assessment of the proposed development area. Our main objective was to identify cultural heritage resources, appraise their worth and their potential contribution to the advancement of the community’s sustainable development.
Kingston was officially founded in 1692 after the catastrophic earthquake that devastated Port Royal. The city expanded from a small seaport town to a spreading city due in large measure to the creation of a number of townships which helped to increase its size. In the early 19th century, the town expanded in both easterly and north-westerly directions. Rae Town was one of the earliest of these planned extensions.
Most of the buildings along Tower Street possess exquisite Jamaican Georgian architecture, and along with the General Penitentiary, are fundamental features of the Tower Street historical streetscape. They are of great architectural and historical significance. It is important that these buildings be preserved and integrated into the proposed development.
I was told that neither the buildings of the Staff Club compound nor the prison buildings are on the JNHT list of declared sites.
This is a closer look at the site on Google maps, on which I have scribbled a few labels. The main derelict building is circled, with the arrow pointing to the front entrance. 2 shows the parking lot and 1 indicates the front gate of the prison across the road. 3 shows another nearby derelict building, pictures of which I have also included in this post.
The main entrance to the building is open and is flanked by doorways labeled Lecture Rooms No.1 and No.2, harking back to a time when the building was used for training for correctional officers.
The door to Lecture Room No.1 still has a padlock on it, a rather ironic touch in the circumstances.
When you look through the front door, you can see the staircase and the doors to the two Lecture Rooms on either side.
Standing at the left end of the front porch…
…looking into Lecture Room No.2…
…with the list on the wall of 45 Qualities of a Good Prison Officer.
A walk down the porch along the left side of the building leads to the back of the structure, some of which seemed to be in slightly better condition.
Standing at the back, I could see through the hallway past the staircase, out through the front door, across the parking lot to the front of GP.
The porch along the right side of the building leads to a section that is made of brick on both storeys…
An open door off that porch revealed some signs of more recent habitation.
The short road running along the left side of the parking lot is labeled Tower Street on the Google map, but it isn’t THE Tower Street; it is a side road which has a dead end.
Looking the other way, down the road, you see a smaller building in disrepair and the front of GP.
This building is in two sections facing a small courtyard.
Both sections are in poor condition…
…but still show some of the distinctive features of the building.
I was very surprised to learn from some correctional officers who were in the parking lot that parts of the main building and the smaller building were used by some correctional officers for changing and even for staying overnight. Anyone having to use these buildings, particularly the upper storeys, is at real risk of injury and it raises an issue regarding provision of facilities for correctional officers who work at the correctional center.
So far I have found little information about these buildings and obviously there is much more to be found out regarding their history and any plans for what is to happen to them. This is the third post in my series on derelict buildings and I had far more information in the first two. I’d be interested in any information or leads anyone can provide. But today I felt like posting these photos, which I took a few months ago. So here they are!
At some point you have to hear when actions speak louder than words. You have to acknowledge that the promises have turned out to be just that…promises. Declarations, clothed in good intentions perhaps, but with no real substance to them in the end. This certainly looks like the case with the use of body-worn cameras by members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). These cameras seem to be a comfort to a fool.
Across at least two administrations and three police commissioners so far, there have been commitments to the use of body-worn cameras by the police. This has been promised as a tool to help with increasing accountability, transparency, professionalism, public trust in the JCF and as a counter to possible false accusations against the police. There have been press conferences, press releases, official launches, pilot projects and media stories about these body-worn cameras. The use of body-worn cameras has been included in legislation and the JCF (finally) produced in November last year policy and procedures regarding the cameras.
Yesterday the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) held a press conference about its 4th Quarterly Report for 2017, which was recently tabled in Parliament. Part Three of the report included a brief update regarding body-worn cameras (p.45).
To date, after all the fanfare, promises and hype, the JCF’s body-worn cameras have not resulted in one piece of footage of any incident that requires further action, not from a planned operation, not from a planned, stationary vehicle check point, not from a random incident, not from any camera deployed anywhere. So where are these body cameras being deployed, if not in circumstances where there is most likelihood of encounters which could result in injury or loss of life?
In some jurisdictions, the discussion about the usefulness of body cameras centres around whether the footage captures all of an encounter; whether the camera is deliberately turned on or off; whether footage should be released to the public and, if so, when; whether the cameras have significant impact on the behaviour of police or the public; whether the cameras actually reduce incidents of police abuse or other such issues. Here, however, we are wondering whether body cameras are actually being deployed and, if so, what is being captured on the body cameras.
“What we are saying is that the Commissioner of Police ought to, since we are putting public attention on it, ought to cause the Force to operate in a way where, when there is a planned operation, that at least one member of that operation who is going to be involved in the activities is wearing a body-worn camera. We think that it gives a false sense of accountability to say, “Oh, yes, we have body-worn cameras,” if you do not deploy them in the areas where they are most needed. And a Force which has questions surrounding its use of force needs to as much as possible put them on all officers who are likely to be involved in use of force incidents.” – Terrence Williams, INDECOM Commissioner, press conference, March 13, 2018
The new Commissioner of Police, Major General Antony Anderson, begins work next week, on March 19. From day one he will have a long list of issues needing his attention. Somewhere on that list should be a review of the deployment of this potentially useful tactical tool, which is currently being deployed in a manner that successfully avoids capturing anything of any significance.
Whether or not the construction going on in Barbican Square will bring the promised benefits is not the subject of this blog post. What I want to consider is whether the situation I saw last week Thursday night and Friday afternoon is indicative of government that values the safety and well-being of its citizens.
The Barbican Road Improvement Project has been going on for many months now. This release from Jamaica Information Service (JIS) in March last year described the scope of the planned work and indicated the timeframe for some of the phases. It included the following advice from Manager for Communication and Customer Services at the National Works Agency (NWA), Stephen Shaw:
Mr. Shaw urges persons to exercise caution as they traverse that area.
“There will be difficulties and challenges while the project is ongoing, but it will be for a greater good; and so, we are asking persons to work with us as we work to complete what we are hoping to be a very successful project,” he says.
In the ensuing months, there has been much comment about the ongoing roadworks in both traditional and social media and I have seen numerous photos posted online by fellow blogger Dennis Jones documenting various problems he has seen.
This image from Google maps shows the area and roads involved. East King’s House Road is marked with an arrow and the numbers indicate some points I will mention as I go along.
Barbican Square is not a route that I have to use routinely and with the ongoing construction I have consciously avoided the area. So when I had to use the route last Thursday night to access somewhere via Birdsucker Lane, I did so with a sense of unease. I had seen something about the closure of Birdsucker Lane, but had paid little attention to the timeline for it and wondered if it was still closed. I assumed that if it were, there would be some signs indicating the appropriate detour. I discovered that Birdsucker was open, but the absence of any proper signage or safety precautions was appalling. When I eventually reached home, I tweeted about the experience.
I approached the area via the East Kings’s House Road route, joined the usual lines of traffic going past Loshusan plaza, taking the right lane, as I normally would to head for Birdsucker. I saw a police car parked across the road from the exit (at 2 on map) from the plaza, obviously trying to discourage the usual boring that takes place just before the concrete median barriers at that point. There were no signs at the intersection of the roundabout road with Barbican Road (at 3 on map). In fact, I saw no signs directing traffic at any point in the roundabout area that night.The situation I mentioned in tweet #3 was along the stretch labeled 6 on the map.The woman with the small child I mentioned in tweet #4 was approaching the Jack’s Hill intersection, coming from the direction of the Square.
I was really troubled by my experience on Thursday night and wanted to see what the situation looked like during daylight, so I went back on Friday afternoon and spent about an hour walking around the area. What I saw confirmed my impression that there is a disregard for the safety of those who have to traverse the area either by car or on foot.
Along the stretch labeled 6 on the map, there were some barriers in evidence where an excavator and some men were working. However, further along the stretch there was nothing marking the edge of the trench being dug, to highlight the danger for motorists.
There were no signs to direct traffic flow at the intersections of Barbican Road with the roundabout road (3 on the map), with Birdsucker Lane (4 on the map) or East King’s House Road (5 on the map). There seemed to be a reliance on a few barriers and luck.
The only sign I saw directing traffic flow in the area of the Square was on East King’s House Road, near the Losushan traffic lights. And even that wasn’t very clearly placed. And nowhere did I see any flag men or women helping to guide drivers. The hazards to pedestrians were many….uneven surfaces, with exposed unfinished construction and holes…
…sidewalks under construction which end abruptly and have uncovered holes, with no attempt to place warnings for pedestrians…
…protruding steel, with no covering and nothing to warn of its presence…
…a drain hole in a sidewalk, with a makeshift and inadequate covering.
The dangers are bad enough during the day, but imagine the additional risks at night and the additional risks to someone who is blind or who has a mobility impairment.
The government has a duty to protect people when construction is taking place on the public thoroughfares. Are there regulations, protocols, guidelines, standards governing such safety measures to protect users of the spaces during such construction? If so, what are those guidelines? Are they being met? Are they included in contracts being issued? What are the monitoring responsibilities of the NWA? Is the NWA satisfied with the safety provisions in Barbican Square roadworks?
These issues have been raised before, quite recently with an accident on Mandela Highway in which lives were lost. New roadworks have begun in Constant Spring and are promised for Hagley Park Road. But clear answers do not seem to be readily forthcoming. On Friday morning I made an Access to Information request to the NWA for “written regulations/guidelines/protocols/requirements for the provision of warnings/ precautions/etc during road work/construction/repairs.” Today I had an acknowledgement of my request. I will share any information I receive.
The JIS report I mentioned earlier stated that “Mr. Shaw urges persons to exercise caution as they traverse that area.” I would hope that Mr Shaw also urges the public officials at the NWA and other responsible government departments to exercise their duty to protect people’s safety as they traverse the area.
“A single image can encompass what would otherwise require a long written narrative — the characters, the setting, even the plot….For this week’s challenge, do some visual storytelling with your photography. “
A beautiful setting, a beautiful occasion, with friends looking on…