By Leonard Gildarie
Almost 50 stalls lining the public road outside the La Penitence market are to be removed as Government announced plans to widen the road further to ease the traffic congestion on the East Bank Demerara roadway.
Even as the stallholders expressed surprise and fear at the announcement, Mayor of Georgetown, Hamilton Green, yesterday met with the contractors, R. Bassoo and Sons, and Government engineers at the market to discuss the issue.
Shortly after, the group was joined by Minister of Public Works and Transport, Robeson Benn, who confirmed that Saffon Street, the road immediately east of the market which is a main artery to the East Bank Demerara, is to be made a two-way again. Plans have already drawn up to this effect.
With several stalls located very close to the road, Benn was clear that these have to be removed since they would continue to impede the flow of traffic.
Currently, the road is closed between 06:00-18:00hrs daily for the northern-bound, city traffic. Additionally, Benn disclosed, authorities have been keeping a close eye on the traditional Sunday market in the area. The ‘Sunday market’, as it has become popularly known, has become a tradition for weekly shoppers who look to cash in on food deals.
Last week, the road was closed as government workers repaved it in preparation for the two-way traffic.
Yesterday, Green told the group of road officials that his administration will not “stop progress” but that the municipality wanted full details to be provided.
According to Minister Benn, the opening of the road to two-way traffic again during the day will ease the bottleneck around the La Penitence area. That problem is compounded at the southern end of Lombard Street where the offices of the Guyana National Shipping Corporation are. With containers in and out of there, the backup has now become a daily problem.
Over the past few years, traffic on the Guyana roadways has increased by 17 per cent.
With no moratorium on the number of minibuses on the road and the development of new housing schemes on the East and West Bank Demerara, even the placement of traffic lights is failing to ease the traffic woes.
At the northern end of the La Penitence market, the bridge at Saffon and Sussex Streets is to be widened also with the mandatory removal of the stalls. This would mean further road closure.
However, closing off the La Penitence area for a few weeks will provide a huge headache for road officials faced with the choice of having to reroute traffic. The options are very few with many of the side streets in Albouystown too small or in a bad state.
Yesterday several of the stallholders said they have not received any official notice to move. The stalls are said to be located over road drains leading to the Sussex Street canal.
“When we receive notices, we will deal with it,” one stallholder who has been operating for over a decade, said.
Traffic on the East Bank Demerara has been critical over the past years with even the four-lane highway unable to handle the increase in the number of vehicles.
To help the congestion around the peak morning hours of between 07:00-09:00hrs, and between 16:00-18:00hrs, authorities at the Demerara Harbour Bridge have been forced to restrict lanes of traffic for specific periods.
In the city, late last week, the Mayor and City Councillors also announced measures to ease the congestion posed by containers parked for prolonged periods and said that from this week, prior permission will have to be sought.
The police have also announced restriction of containers and trucks on the East Bank Demerara roadway during peak times.
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