December Town Meeting Discusses St. John Public Transportation Issues

CRUZ BAY — Even though he is in the last days as the head of Public Works in the de Jongh Administration, DPW Commissioner Darryl Smalls presented St. John residents with a wish list of transportation improvements at a meeting in early December.

About a dozen residents turned out for the December 4 town meeting, one of three held across the territory. Smalls said the goal was to address road conditions, pedestrian safety, infrastructure and public transit. Deputy Public Works Commissioner Karole McGregor and consultant Marie Powell joined took turns sharing different aspects of the transportation initiative.

Future St. John Projects
Close to 20 separate projects were listed for St. John. Projects ranged from those requiring some effort and available resources, like coordinating VITRAN bus schedules with ferry arrival and departure times to some highly-ambitious plans requiring major effort and resources, like connecting roads and building sidewalks.

The list of projects was developed through a series of meetings with residents in focus groups, McGregor said. There were also a host of government agencies adding input to the studies. Many of those agencies like police, the U.S. Postal Service, the Port Authority and the National Park Service, interact with transportation systems daily. Other agencies such as the VI Territorial Emergency Management Agency, Homeland Security, and Planning and Natural Resources, address transportation from a policy or emergency management standpoint.

Those projects were broken down into those meeting different transportation needs: mass transit, island wide projects, safety and operational improvements and congestion relief.

Park and Ride; Shuttle Service
Suggested St. John projects included: Initiation of a Park and Ride parking lot on Gifft Hill near the Myrah Keating Smith Clinic; shuttle service from Cruz Bay Creek and the Enighed Pond parking lot to the Loredon Boynes Ferry Dock; construction of a connecting roadway along the South Shore from Reef Bay Road to Cocoloba Point; and modification of the bus route endpoint for evening VITRAN service to Coral Bay.

Smalls told the gathering there was at least one transportation system at work on St. John he would like to implement on St. Thomas.

“One of the things we are trying to mimic on St. Thomas is having a bus at the ferry dock, waiting to take riders to one of the commercial areas, like Tutu Park Mall,” Smalls said.
There was also extensive discussion about the role of mass transit on St. John. Public works officials said they were surprised when they first noticed how much use VITRAN buses got and how much revenue the mass transit system collected on St. John.

Then, Smalls said, they took a closer look and noticed who was using mass transit. That group included hotel workers, construction crews, public safety personnel, students, working commuters headed for offices on St. Thomas, and shoppers.

Residents attending the Wednesday night town meeting at the Legislature in Cruz Bay had concerns of their own they wanted added to the list.

Melville Samuel patiently explained the history of Jacob’s Ladder, a steep hill on Southshore Road, Route 107, which becomes dangerous even when a light rain falls.

If the road that climbs Jacob’s ladder is dry, Samuel said, there’s no problem. If it’s raining heavily, he said, no problem.

But, the road gets slick when a light rain falls and vehicles lose traction, Samuel said. Mc Gregor told Samuel the agency could take a look at resurfacing programs used by the Federal Highways Administration.

Public Works officials said they would wrap up the series of town meetings by taking the input received from the public and comparing it to the information they received from the focus groups. After that, they said, they would refine the list of transportation improvements and get ready for further talks with local policy makers and their federal transportation counterparts.