Island Roads is expected to build retaining walls in three areas on Centerline Road sometime after the holiday season.
More than three years after being initially damaged, repair work is slated to begin on Centerline Road — the sole road connecting Cruz Bay and Coral Bay — the first week of January, according to a prepared statement issued on Wednesday evening, December 19, by Government House.
Last week Island Roads was granted a Notice to Proceed on the project following Governor John deJongh’s signing of a contract between Island Roads Corporation and the government at the end of November, according to the press release.
“Last week, Island Roads Corporation was granted a Notice to Proceed on the project that will construct retaining walls on three of the most damaged locations along Centerline Road,” according to the release. “Island Roads is expected to mobilize immediately after the holiday season, with work set to begin during the first week in January.”
“The project is slated to take nine months to complete at a cost of just over $1 million dollars and it includes rebuilding the edge of the road and reconstructing major sections of the roadway washed out in the tropical storm all along Centerline Road,” according to the prepared statement from Government House.
Several sections of Centerline Road and at least one section of Fish Bay Road were damaged in October 2010 during heavy rains during Tropical Storm Otto. In the initial wake of the damage, Department of Public Works crews on St. John placed orange cones near the most heavily damaged sections of both roads.
Two years of no repairs on the roadways were blamed on the lengthy and painstaking process of applying for Federal Highway Administration funds. FHA finally signed off on the project in January 2012, according to the press release issued by Government House last week.
“The efforts to bring significant improvements to Centerline Road date back almost two years to January 2012 when the Federal Highway Administration granted its initial approval for the reconstruction of the damaged sections of the roadway, explained Department of Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls,” according to the Government House press release. “Several administrative procedures were required to satisfy the use of federal dollars provided.”
In the meantime, heavy rains in May 2013 sent a section of Centerline Road near the Estate Upper Carolina subdivision tumbling down the Carolina Valley hillside. Since then, the partially blind corner has been passable only in one lane.
In July DPW officials installed signage and speed bumps on either side of the compromised roadway and erected a berm around the crumbling section of Centerline Road.
Meanwhile, Property and Procurement was finally ready to advertise for bids in June, according to the Government House press release.
“In June, the Department of Property and Procurement advertised for bids, bids were received a month later, evaluated and Island Roads was selected as the contractor in August,” according to the prepared statement. “By November, the Federal Highway Administration had concurred with the contractor selection process and granted its final go ahead for the project.”
Sometime during the three year process of completing the FHA application, the Fish Bay Road section seems to have been scrapped from the overall project. Last week’s press release from Government House did not mention Fish Bay Road, address when the funding was approved by FHA, or mention a bill appropriating $500,000 from St. John Capital Improvement Fund to DPW for Centerline Road repairs, which deJongh signed last month.
The prepared statement did quote the governor expressing his relief at getting started on the project.
“This roadway damage was caused by Tropical Storm Otto and I am relieved that we can commence this project to ease the challenges faced by motorists on a regular basis along this well-traveled roadway,” deJongh was quoted in the press release.
DPW Commissioner Smalls said in the release that he understood residents’ frustration with the lengthy process of beginning road repairs.
“I appreciate the patience of the St. John community, and understand their frustration for the time it has taken us to reach this point,” Smalls was quoted in the Government House press release. “But this reconstruction period will allow the contractor to mobilize his crews and carry out the work as effectively and efficiently as possible and return Centerline Road to a level of functionality that is safe for pedestrians and motorists alike.”
Several St. John residents, however, weren’t ready last week to believe that repairs will actually begin next month.
“This is not the first time that we’ve heard of a promised starting date for repairs to Centerline Road,” said one resident who asked to not be named. “They were supposed to start work in September and then in October. Now they say in January.”
“We’ll just have to see,” said the resident.