The worst gridlocked traffic Grand Cayman has experienced was addressed by Cayman Islands Premier Wayne Panton on Friday evening in a voicemail posted to the media apologising for the horrendous standstill. He was fully aware of the massive problem because he too was caught up in it.
Panton admitted full responsibility for the crippling roadblocks for thousands in central George Town. Friday evenings are always bad traffic-wise in the capital but with the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service closing many roads for Pirates Fest events, a normally difficult situation became intolerable.
Panton called it “an inexcusable traffic jam,” admitting that he too was also stuck in traffic that was barely moving.
Seafarers Way was closed between Warwick Drive and Fort Street, from Thursday until Sunday morning and Shedden Road was closed to westbound traffic at Elgin Avenue too. Northbound traffic approaching Seafarers Way was diverted onto Boilers Road, and southbound traffic was diverted onto Fort Street. It all meant virtually standstill in all the major roads in the area; besides Shedden Road that included Walkers Road and Eastern Avenue.
Panton insisted he will ensure changes are made “to make sure you never have to suffer this again.” He said he intended to consult the police commissioner and the Pirates Festival committee.
Grand Cayman has seen a huge number of imported vehicles in recent years, exacerbating the problem of already congested roads. Panton said: “Road closures clearly only compound the problem of the unrestricted importation of hundreds of cars every month. We have got to get on top of the situation a lot quicker. And I can promise you we will be moving fast to try to address this problem. Rest assured, this is unacceptable.”
Motorists stuck in the standstill took to social media to express their frustrations. Some had taken as much as two hours just to get from Camana Bay to Crewe Road.
Some motorists even abandoned their vehicles on the Esterley Tibbetts Highway and started walking. Others ran out of gas. The delays even caused people to miss flights from the Owen Roberts International Airport. Fire service and ambulance services were also stuck in the excruciating impasse.
The annual Pirates Week Festival was handled by The Ministry of Youth, Sports, Culture & Heritage for the first time. Blocked roads included from the Hard Rock restaurant to the port where food vendors and entertainers were performing. The closures caused immense traffic problems Friday morning so it was no wonder that by the evening the situation worsened.
The Pirates Fest organisers received a torrent of complaints from vendors and members of the public alike. Complaints on social media include: too many vehicles, poor public transport system, lack of infrastructure upgrade, poor organisation by the authorities and the huge growth of the Pirates Fest, post pandemic.