KN Jun 24, 2016 Features / Columnists, Freddie Kissoon

If you are familiar with my offerings over the long years, you would know that I have done several (by several I think about a dozen) columns on non-functioning traffic signals, collapsing street lamps and non-existent street lights. You would also know that I live on the Railway Embankment, next to the Caricom Secretariat. So last week while driving, I saw the vehicles with technicians who were testing the new traffic signals installed at Conversation Tree Road and the Railway Embankment.
frddie3I wasn’t elated, even though I know that junction is a murder corner because I use it daily. I wasn’t joyful, because there is a more murderous junction a few yards from the Conversation Tree Road. So I slowed up, looked at the operation and heard a few technicians say, “Fredaay, Fredaay.” My amused mind couldn’t help being titillated. You are putting lights at a corner where a few blocks away there is a deadlier junction and the signals do not work.
Let us examine the traffic where I live. At the Railway Embankment and UG Road, the traffic there has to accommodate the following reality. There is UG from morning until nine in the night. There is Cyril Potter College. The Giftland Mall has increased the traffic in this area by ten times. The Convention Centre and CARICOM are in this area as is the National Aquatic Centre.
National Hardware is building a housing estate next to Giftland Mall. Right at that very junction, the Rama Krishna Church is about to open its head office. There was a church service there two weeks ago and there was traffic madness because as usual, the signals were out.
East of UG in Cummings Lodge and Industry, new housing schemes have gone up. This means that residents there have to use the signals at UG Road. At that junction there is University Garden, a gated community where many diplomats live. A senior economist at the Ministry of Finance with whom I went to UG in my young days, turned up at my gate looking for the residence of the UNDP Head where there was an official function.
He said he couldn’t find the place and since he knew where I lived, he thought he would ask me. There is the Gafoors’ gated community in this area too. All in all, the traffic that uses the signals at UG Road and Railway Embankment is simply enormous. When there is a popular movie or a huge sale at Giftland, the nightmare begins once the signals do not work, and the signals do not work, not to mention when there is an entertainment function at the Convention Centre or a singer from India at Giftland.
So the wise men and goodly women in the Ministry of Public Infrastructure have set up brand new traffic lights at Conversation Tree Road and the Railway Embankment. What’s wrong with that? Absolutely nothing. Motorists should be thankful. But in the midst of this gratitude, commonsense died. A few blocks up the road going east, you have a heavier use of the signals by countless numbers, but those signals do not normally work.
My point? While you put new lights at Conversation Tree, you haven’t helped drivers with their nightmare, because the signals at UG Road do not work.
Now here is the thing, and if it wasn’t such a sad situation you could find it funny. How long do you think those lights at Conversation Tree will endure? I have to take that road many times each day, so I will be monitoring them. I ask readers how long you give them before they become non-functioning. A month? Two months? Six months? But as night follows day, they will go. Why can’t they last for years? No traffic lights last for years. They have to be maintained.
What I am confused about is what type of engineering system underpins these signals that they are extinguished so often, and it takes months to fix them? The lights at Duncan and Sheriff Streets went out for more than six months and were fixed last month. What was so complicated about the mechanism that powered those signals that they couldn’t be fixed in days or weeks? What is really wrong with the mechanism at UG Road that those signals cannot function for one straight week?
It is not a nice thing to say, but this country has a sad conversation with itself. When some powerful official gets slammed into at UG Road and the Railway Embankment, only then they will act. I don’t want it to happen. But it will.