Public Works Removing Abandoned Cars on Roads

Abandoned vehicles on St. John, like one of those above, have been tagged for removal by the Department of Public Works.

Abandoned cars which have become fixtures on the sides of St. John roadways are slowly disappearing, thanks to the Department of Public Works, which is sweeping the island in an effort to get rid of the abandoned cars, according to DPW St. John Deputy Director Ira Wade.

Abandoned vehicles on the island have already been tagged, according to Wade. “We are doing a massive abandoned vehicle cleanup project,” said Wade Tuesday, July 18. “Right now, we are working the Coral Bay district. We’re pushing hard out there; we’ve pulled in about 27 cars so far.”

Tags Serve as Motivation
“We’ve been tagging vehicles over the last few weeks,” he said. “Sometimes the tags actually serve as motivation for people to move their vehicles and bring them in off the public roads. Those that didn’t follow the law, we give 48 to 72 hours notice, and then we remove their vehicle.”

Owners of the abandoned cars, which are held at the Susannaberg transfer station after being removed from roadways, do have the opportunity to reclaim their vehicles, according to Wade.

“The government notifies the last registered owner that we have their vehicle, and if they don’t respond by about 15 days after receiving the letter, the government can dispose of the vehicle by auction or by demolishing the vehicle,” he said.

Those interested in claiming their abandoned vehicles must bring proof of ownership to the DPW office at the Sus-annaberg transfer station.

100+ Abandoned Vehicles
“They must bring a minimum of $75 for towing, but if the car isn’t registered, they won’t be allowed to take it without paying another service to tow it away,” said Wade, who estimates there are more than 100 abandoned vehicles on St. John. “Right now it’s a massive thing, because there are so many cars out there.”

DPW has been clearing cars from Coral Bay for more than two weeks.

“We might end up doing even more there, and we will come and pay the same respect to Cruz Bay,” said Wade. “That’s the key — you have to be fair, so we work on both ends of the island.”

Although abandoning a car is disrespectful, according to Wade, it is a part of life on an island like St. John.

“You have a big transient population here,” said Wade. “People come here, they work during the season and they buy a car. Then they are gone for a while, so they leave their car along the side of the road, and maybe they don’t come back.”

Cars Abandoned on Public, Private Roads
Rental property owners often complain to DPW that their renters abandon vehicles on private roads, according to Wade.

“It’s a fact of life,” he said. “Some of the landowners who rent their property have complained that people rent from them, then they up and leave, leaving their vehicles on their property.”

DPW’s latest abandoned vehicle sweep will target abandoned cars on public roads, according to Wade.

“We are primarily taking care of those that are on public roads, within view,” he said. “If it’s a piece of junk by law, and if it presents an unsightly appearance, we have the right to tag it, give warning and then remove it