Reconstruction of the North Shore Road is progressing at a good pace, and work is expected to move even more quickly once the project’s contractor, Island Roads, finishes work at the Cruz Bay roundabout and is able to dedicate a second crew to the North Shore job.
Work began on the road, which has become severely pockmarked with potholes in some areas, in October 2009. The crew took a break between Christmas and New Year’s Day, and now is back out in full force, reconstructing the road base.
The contractor has 18 months to finish the project, which stretches along the North Shore Road all the way from Cruz Bay out to where the road ends at Annaberg, and to where it reconnects with Centerline Road.
“No one believes they’ll need the full year and a half to finish it,” said V.I. National Park Superintendent Mark Hardgrove. “They’re making a lot of progress. We’re looking to have the project complete sometime this summer.”
Crews will first reconstruct the entire eight mile stretch of road, and then lay down the new pavement all at once, Hardgrove explained.
“They’re digging down to solid bedrock and putting in a plastic material that helps stabilize the road, making it stronger than before and able to carry more of a load,” he said. “They’re going through and making reconstructions first, and then they’ll actually come back and throw down the new pavement all at once. It should last 15 to 20 years; this is the right way to proceed.”
Unlike the last time the North Shore Road, which cuts through the VINP, was paved 17 years ago and entirely closed during the process, there will not be any road closures during the current reconstruction. Motorists can expect the road to be down to one lane in areas, where traffic is controlled with temporary stop lights.
In addition to improving the road’s stability, the reconstruction should also make the road easier to traverse, explained Hardgrove.
“They’re using a high tack asphalt, which is really sticky, and will substantially improve traction on the switchbacks between Trunk and Cinnamon Bay,” he said. “There will also be some realignment of grades at those switchbacks to make it as friendly as it can be made.”
The reconstruction project, which is expected to cost approximately $4 million, is being funded by the Federal Highway Administration and money from the economic stimulus package.
Response to the project has been highly positive, according to Hardgrove.
“We’re glad we were able to recruit a local company that employs local subcontractors and residents of the Virgin Islands, and that was well received by everyone,” he said.
“The taxi drivers like how it’s going, and even interpret the project as part of their tours, talking about President Barack Obama and the stimulus package at work.”
The project is long overdue, the VINP superintendent continued.
“I always worry when we issue special permits for bike races, because we’ve had some accidents due to issues maintaining shoulders which are eroding,” said Hardgrove.
“We’ve also had folks hit potholes on bicycles and motorcycles and pop their tires. We’re looking forward to a safer North Shore.”
The VINP also plans to improve the island’s north shore by paving the road and parking lot at Francis Bay, helping to reduce erosion in the area. The contract was recently awarded to Tip Top Construction, and work is expected to become sometime this winter.