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DPW Says Frenchtown Is Back to Square One

Aug. 3, 2005- While a recent statement issued by Public Safety Commissioner Elton Lewis promised a resolution on issues regarding the No Right Turn sign installed in Frenchtown, senators were surprised to hear the saga still continues—even after the sign was taken down last week.
"Commissioner Lewis said that there would be a resolution to this problem on Sept. 22…does anyone know what's going on? As far as I know, he still hasn't met with the Frenchtown residents, and no one knows whether the sign is going back up, or going to stay down," Senate President Lorraine Berry said a public hearing Tuesday.
Berry was even more disturbed to find that Lewis was not at the hearing, and that acting commissioner of Public Works George Phillips was unable to provide many of the answers she was looking for regarding the confusion of authority in this matter.
Like other senators, Berry held firm to the belief that Public Safety has sole jurisdiction over the sign, and Public Works should not have installed it in the first place—especially without the consultation of Frenchtown residents.
"I assure you that Public Works cleared the installation of the sign before we put it up," Phillips said. However, this statement directly contrasts with earlier remarks made by Lewis, who denied that DPW came to him when the sign was first put up.
Phillips added that the sign, as well as proposed changes to alter the traffic flow in the area, was part of a larger traffic flow project for St. Thomas. Called the East/West Corridor, this project comes as a response to heavy traffic congestion throughout the island, Phillips said. The route for this endeavor begins at the Red Hook dock on the East End, goes through Smith Bay, down Rapune Hill, past Mandela Circle, Lover's Lane and Veterans Drive, and then finishes at the Cyril E. King Airport.
"We hope to start construction on the area around Mandela Circle in October," Phillips said. "This segment of the corridor will add an extra two lanes on the road toward Lover's Lane, an extra lane on the road past Havensight, and an extra lane on the road going past Blockbuster toward Kmart." Phillips said immediate construction of these lanes is crucial because residents will need to navigate through additional traffic caused by the opening of the Yacht Haven Marina.
Phillips said that the Frenchtown project also came as a response to concerns voiced by a representative from the Federal Highways Administration. "When this gentleman was here with me, I took him on two road tours. When we came to the intersection [Altona and Veterans Drive], he pointed out a number concerns…near misses in traffic on the highway."
Frenchtown residents at the hearing on Tuesday said that this is because many people often drive over the 20 mph speed limit in the area. "So, instead of trying to change Frenchtown, Public Safety should have officers out there enforcing the speed limit…making sure that accidents don't happen," Nestor Magras, Frenchtown resident, said.
Magras, along with Frenchtown Civic Organization President Henry Richardson and Charlie Magras, owner of Mr. Creole, added that the best solution to the problem is to put up a traffic light at the intersection. "It's not fair to ask residents to change the access way into their homes without talking to them about the process first," Magras said. "Put up a traffic light."
Magras also pointed out that nothing is being executed by the department to stop accidents on the waterfront.
"That's not true, "Phillips said. "We are working with the Port Authority to put up a rubber bumper system along the sides of the road so that no one will fall over." Phillips added that other ideas are being considered, such as extending ladders over the sea wall so that individuals who fall into the water can pull themselves back to shore.
"We're taking all ideas into consideration, and then we'll start work on the project."
Phillips added that the same consideration is also being made for the Frenchtown area. "We are back at square one now…we've listened to everyone's concerns, and we're going to take all factors into consideration before executing anymore changes."
When asked where the signs are being housed currently, Phillips said that since he did not personally remove the signs himself, he could not attest as to their whereabouts. "I'm sure my department has them somewhere," the acting commissioner said.
Adding a drop of humor to the conversation, Richardson responded to Phillips' statement by saying, "If you're looking for a place to house the signs, you could always place them in my museum."
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