Ring-road will not alleviate traffic
In its press statement the UP board mentions that the Ring-road project was outlined in the Development perspective St. Maarten Philipsburg Greater Great Bay Area or as it is commonly referred to the Almere Plan.
St. Maarten Pride Foundation would like to point out the following; The Development perspective or Almere Plan was compiled some 7 to 8 years ago and much has changed on St. Maarten in general and in and around the Great Salt Pond in particular, over these past years. Successive Governments, of which Mr. Heyliger of the UP was a member, have for instance allowed a great deal of filling-in of the Great Salt pond, contrary to recommendations in the development perspective, making the drawings and proposed location of the Ring-road in the document unrealistic and thereby undermining the intended purpose of the project. The Ring-road project as it is now being carried out therefore greatly differs from the suggestions made in the Almere Plan.
The UP board’s article goes on to state that "…the plan… was developed through analysis and sessions with stakeholders, including environmental organizations". This paragraph seems to insinuate that St. Maarten Pride Foundation somehow approved of, or recommended the construction of the ring road during the information session held by TKA and the Almere group in 2003, this insinuation is entirely misleading and inaccurate at best. The development perspective itself contradicts the UP Party’s implication; The following stakeholders have been consulted about the development vision described in this report … … … … . Their wishes have been noted by TKA, and as far as possible taken into account during the formulation of this Development Vision. Development perspective St. Maarten Philipsburg Greater Great Bay Area" (TKA, Architecture & Urban Design, 2003)
In additional attempts to justify the ring road project UP’s board cites that the governing program of 2007-2011 states that "Government will pursue the expansion of the road network by removing various traffic bottlenecks at the intersections as well as the expansion of the road network with new links". "…….major road connectors that will be pursued are the causeway across the Simpson Bay Lagoon and the projected ring-road around the Great Salt Pond". A goal Commissioner Heyliger no doubt ensured on including in this program. Various government policy plans, government commissioned reports and independent studies have however, identified the alarming number of vehicles on St. Maarten as the primary cause of traffic congestion, a fact which the UP board skillfully chose to omit from their press statement.
The Tourism Master Plan of 2005, for instance, provides recommendations and specific proposals aimed at alleviating traffic congestion in the long-term including proposals on:
· Raising road or registration tax with excessively large cars more highly taxed,
· Introducing a regulated public transportation system with proper bus stops and related amenities,
· Regulating the car rental sector to limit the number of rental vehicles and the issuing of new car rental licenses.
With the number of vehicles on the island increasing by a significant percentage each year, as is presently the case, the planned road network expansions including the Ring-road will cease to meet traffic capacity needs in less than 5 years unless government takes measures to curb the increase of vehicles on the island and improve public transportation.
In addition to the aforementioned, research and experience in many countries shows that increased road capacity is very quickly filled with what researchers have dubbed "induced vehicle traffic"; people tend to abandon public transportation and carpools when additional road space is made available, through new road construction or linkages, thereby resulting in more cars on the road and subsequently more traffic congestion.
Building new roads without taking additional measures to curb the increase of vehicles on the island is therefore merely a very temporary measure and consequently an ineffective and unsustainable strategy for resolving the island’s traffic congestion challenges.
No comprehensive traffic or road network study for St. Maarten has been carried out within the last fifteen to twenty years despite the tremendous growth the island has faced during this period. Government of which Mr. Heyliger has been an active member, for some eleven years by his own account, has not taken any measures regarding the comparatively more cost- effective proposals aimed at alleviating traffic congestion in the long-term, including proposals listed in the Multi Annual Policy Plan, The Tourism Master Plan and the Carrying Capacity Study, even though these recommendations or studies may very well dispel or nullify Mr. Heyliger’s and Government’s perceived need for the Ring Road project.
Mr. Heyliger was in office when the aforementioned comparatively more cost- effective proposals aimed at alleviating traffic congestion in the long-term were presented, the Foundation can therefore only wonder as to why Mr. Heyliger did not pursue these measures.
Questions such as how projects such as the Ring-road and the Bridge across the Lagoon will be funded are conveniently left unanswered. The Foundation reminds the UP Board and Mr. Heyliger that real leadership involves taking often politically unpopular but much needed decisions, to in this case perhaps introduce one of the aforementioned measures to alleviate traffic.
St. Maarten Pride Foundation deems it unfortunate that Mr. Heyliger and evidently the board of his new Party as well, prefer to propose and carry-out cosmetic solutions to St. Maarten’s (traffic congestion) challenges through extravagant projects which do very little to actually resolve the issues at hand.
The UP’s statement continues with rhetoric about what it deems to call "progress", "that progress comes at an Environmental cost" even going as far as to state that "without progress always, like it says in our coat of arms, St. Maarten is nowhere".
These UP statements about progress indicate that the Party’s board members do not understand the dynamics of the topic, as "economic development and progress" on St. Maarten or anywhere else for that matter will not remain viable in the long run if the environment is not sufficiently protected.
The Party’s baseless accusation that St. Maarten Pride Foundation is selective in the projects it chooses to criticize and find fault with is a blatant and obvious attempt to marginalize St. Maarten Pride Foundation and its concerns.
St. Maarten Pride Foundation and its partner Foundations have been advocating environmental protection, working to create environmental awareness and providing environmental education for over ten years now and will continue to do so in the years to come.
St. Maarten Pride Foundation