June 12, 2006 – The Public Works Department is working on the development of a comprehensive highway system that will eventually stretch from the Cyril E. King Airport to Red Hook.
While a large chunk of the work is still in the planning stages, construction on a section of the system – the highly anticipated expansion of the Long Bay, Centerline and Frenchman's Bay roads – should begin in October.
At a recent public meeting held at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall on St. Thomas, department officials said the entire project – which is expected to cost between $18 and $20 million in federal highway funds – would be put out to bid by the end of summer
The project is expected to take approximately two years to complete, during which time the expansion would be completed in phases, beginning with the reconstruction of Centerline Road, which runs down from the V.I. Housing Authority building to the Pueblo supermarket in Long Bay.
Improvements on this road include the under-grounding of utility poles and the installation of temporary traffic signals, along with the construction of a box culvert and sidewalk. According to Public Works Commissioner George Phillips, the road would also go from two-lanes to three-lanes.
"We also hope to take the Long Bay Road to four lanes and the Frenchman's Bay Road to three-lanes," Phillips said. "And we're doing this because there has to be some consistency with the lanes. Right now there is a bottleneck created whenever we have a four lane road tapering down into a two lane road."
The box culvert, he added, would take waste from the eastern side of Frenchman's Bay to the western side, and would eventually tie into the waste disposal system built for Havensight Mall that leads directly to the ocean.
The second phase of the project, expected to start after the winter season, will initially focus on the reconstruction of the Frenchman's Bay road, then move on to the reconstruction of the Long Bay road, where two additional lanes will be added. The lanes will run to the entrance of Havensight Mall.
"There will also be a five-foot median running alongside the road where we will incorporate some beautiful landscaping," said Aloy W. Nielsen, deputy commissioner of engineering for Public Works.
Phase two will also include the under-grounding of utility poles on the Frenchman's Bay road.
Nielsen said the third phase of the project will include striping the roads, finishing the landscaping and installing traffic signals at the Mandela Circle intersection, as well as the Lover's Lane and Veteran's Drive intersection.
Phillips said at the end of the meeting, "The Virgin Islands is becoming very competitive in going after the tourism dollar. That means we have to have a good infrastructure and good transportation systems – which includes the roads. This project will allow us to do that."
Phillips added that the public would be involved "during every step of the process," and that department officials would be holding additional meetings to get residents' input about the construction plans and possible improvements or solutions to traffic congestion problems that may be a result of the proposed project. "In my opinion, that's what makes the project better for everyone," he said.
The project is scheduled for completion in November 2008.
Department officials said traffic would be controlled within the Long Bay, Centerline Road and Frenchman's Bay areas during construction.
No objections or concerns about the project were aired by the group of about 30 residents who attended the meeting.
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