Centerline and Fish Bay Road Repairs Should Start in August, Says DPW


One of the nine portions of St. John roadways slated for repair is a section of Fish Bay Road, above, which has been undermined by almost nine inches, below.

Residents from Coral Bay to Fish Bay know first hand how tropical storms during the 2010 hurricane season damaged several portions of main St. John roadways.

Several areas of Centerline Road between Mamey Peak and Upper Carolina were undermined during heavy rains in September and October 2010 when hillsides washed out. Another area of Fish Bay Road, Route 10A, was also seriously damaged in the storms and continues to deteriorate.

Citizens who call Coral Bay or Fish Bay home, as well as water and cement trucks, school buses and VITRAN vehicles, drive these heavily traveled roads each day. Motorists have watched cracks spreading near areas of wash outs and, when passing, try to stay as far away from the compromised portions as the roadway allows.

Teri and Bernie Ackerman have watched as one portion of Fish Bay Road has continued to erode just above their driveway. The Ackermans have been in contact with DPW officials since October 2010 and are still hoping, and waiting, for work to begin on the site.

“My biggest concern is that the road keeps on deteriorating,” said Teri Ackerman. “My fear is the road is just going to collapse and someone is going to die. A lot of people live out here and drive over this road; there are a lot of families and residents.”

There are also construction sites in the Fish Bay area, which means concrete trucks traverse the road, and rental villas, which bring water truck traffic.

The Ackermans have fully cooperated with DPW, allowing the department access to their property and even going so far as helping to replace a damaged part on a DPW backhoe.

“I don’t think people realize how dangerous this is,” said Teri Ackerman.

“The road has been undermined between six and nine inches and keeps getting worse,” said Bernie Ackerman. “It’s almost half way across the road underneath at this point. And now there are cracks that weren’t there before.”

In the wake of the storms, DPW put orange cones and barriers in the seriously damaged portions of roadway. And while no other work has yet to commence on the compromised roadways, Department of Public Works knows how bad the damage was too, explained DPW’s Office of Highway Engineers’ Materials Program Manager Tom Jones.

“We’re not delaying anything, but it’s taking a while because there are a multitude of sites that need work,” said Jones. “We haven’t been stalling. These projects are linked to emergency relief funds and sometimes they take a long time before they are authorized.”

It took time before DPW was allocated funds for road repairs from Federal Highway Administration, Jones explained.

“We didn’t see the funding being released after the storms,” he said. “There has been so much devastation all over the states, everyone has been working overtime.”

Although Jones could not state exactly how much money Federal Highway Administration allocated to DPW, he put “the ballpark figure” at $3 million.

Those $3 million will be used to repair a total of nine areas of Fish Bay Road and Centerline Road. DPW officials initially planned to package all of the repair work into one project, but have since changed their minds, explained Jones.

“What we were going to do was have one big FEMA project on St. John but then we realized that if one contractor wins that bid, he might be able to do only one or two sites at a time,” Jones said. “So we broke it up by location into three projects with three sites in each project. So we’re hoping to have three contractors who can hopefully get working on all of the sites at once.”

DPW should have the bid packages ready by the end of May and hope to see some work begin in August, according to Jones.

“We are finalizing the plans right now and many areas are going to include retaining walls, replacing concrete slabs on the roads and replacing culverts in damaged areas,” he said. “We’re hoping to have everything together and out to bid by the end of this month. Once the packages are out to bid, you’re looking at a 90-day turn-around or so.”

“We should be going to construction at the latest sometime in August,” said Jones. “

DPW engineers are also looking at erosion control measures to keep water flowing in natural guts and not washing out hillsides or roadways, Jones added.

Once work gets started, Jones expects work to wrap up around January 2013.

“It all depends on the way the contractor goes about the schedules,” said Jones. “There are a lot of different dynamics, some projects might be faster or slower.”

While Jones hopes to have contractors working on multiple sites at once, drivers won’t have to contend with road closures, he added.

“There will be no full road closures, but we do expect lane closures,” said Jones. “We will maintain at least one-way traffic at all sites.”

While several previous DPW timetables for bid packages have lapsed, residents across the island, including the Ackermans, hope to actually see construction this time around.

“We really just want to see the road get fixed,” said Teri Ackerman. “People should know how dangerous it is and try to stay on the other side of the road. It’s continually getting worse, so drivers should be careful.”