Recent Rains Worsen Weakened Centerline Road


Recent heavy rains brought down a new section of the already eroding area of Centerline Road near the Upper Carolina subdivision turnoff, above. DPW officials are aware of the problem but don’t expect to move ahead with repairs for at least three months.

Heavy rains on Friday, May 10, brought flooding across the territory, but the force of the rain just might have caused the worst damage on St. John.

A section of Centerline Road near the Upper Carolina subdivision turnoff has been deteriorating since the fall of 2010, when Tropical Storm Otto’s deluge undermined the already eroding roadbed.

More than two and a half years later, Department of Public Works has done no work on the area and each heavy rain only erodes the area more and more. Such was the case on Friday night, May 10, when a large section of asphalt crumbled away, further undermining the sole road into and out of Coral Bay.

St. John residents driving past the area last week were warned of the growing danger by a new and larger bright orange barrier which was placed in the damaged road section, joining several orange cones which were placed in the area in 2010. The placing of the orange cones and new barriers is only action DPW officials have taken  in the area, and residents should not expect to see any additional improvements to the road before mid-August at the earliest, explained DPW Commissioner Darryl Smalls.

The commissioner blamed the more than two years it has taken DPW to fix one of the only major roads on St. John on the lengthy process of applying for Federal Highway funds.

“That road is slated for repairs and it has been slated for repairs,” Smalls said in a telephone interview with St. John Tradewinds. “The whole process has been taking a long time.”

While DPW did win emergency funds last year from the Federal Highway Administration for road repairs and flood mitigation, the department was forced to resubmit its application, Smalls explained.

“We received the funding, but plans had to be developed,” he said. “We had to the archaeological studies and environmental studies and we’ve gotten over all those hurdles now. But the original funding was to be for one project.”

“It was disaster relief for three projects on St. John and one on St. Thomas all under one bid package,” said Smalls. “We had to resubmit those projects separately. We had to have four separate bid packages and now those have been developed and have been sent.”

“We are now waiting for the concurrent from Federal Highway,” said the DPW Commissioner.

Smalls expects to receive that final approval from Federal Highway Administration by the end of May, he added.

“I anticipate that concurrent from Federal Highway by next week,” said Smalls. “Once I receive that, then we can publicly advertise these projects. That will take about 30 days and then we’re talking anywhere from 60 to 90 days to get those bids in from contractors.”

“Realistically, we’re expecting the work to get started in about three months,” Smalls said.

If that timeline proves true, work on Centerline Road will not even start until mid-August at the earliest. Any delay in Small’s projected timeline could push the roadwork back to September which is the height of hurricane season.

While Smalls did not have details of the scope of work for the three separate road projects on St. John, two of those projects are on Centerline Road and one is on Fish Bay Road. Once the bid solicitations are finalized, DPW expects to be able to tackle all three of those projects at the same time, Smalls added.

“Once everything is ready, we’ll try to get them all going simultaneously,” he said.

DPW issued a prepared statement last week reassuring the residents of St. John that the department is aware of the road problems.

“Residents on the East End of St. John should know that we understand the challenges posed by flooding in that area, and we are moving hastily now on a major road construction project,” Smalls said in the DPW press release issued by Government House last week.

That sentiment, however, did little to ease resident’s fears, especially as Hurricane Season 2013, and the promise of more rain, approaches.

“It’s been more than two years since the road had been damaged and it’s just getting worse and worse,” said one St. John resident who asked to not be named. “I cringe each time I drive by there. It’s scary.”