CHARLOTTE AMALIE –– Gov. Kenneth Mapp said all of the territory’s main roads will be rebuilt to federal standards following the damage inflicted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Mapp said $530 million of the $1.2 billion needed has been pledged for the project. He also said Monday that officials have already assessed the territory’s 1,273-mile public road system.
“In three to five years our road system will be essentially unrecognizable from what it is today,” Mapp said. “I am committed to working to modernize our roads and thoroughfares so that potholes and other road issues become experiences of the past.”
Crews plan to rebuild roads to accommodate water, sewage and power lines, as well as fiber optic cables. They also will feature American Disabilities Act certified sidewalks, traffic signals and crosswalks, among other things.
After completion of the assessment, the Department of Public Works, with the assistance of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Witt O’Brien’s, concluded it will cost $1.2 billion to bring all Virgin Islands’ public roads up to DOT standards, Mapp said at a news conference on Tuesday.
This amount includes the $100 million already pledged for the GARVEE road projects. The remaining $430 million will come from multiple funding sources: $80 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Public Assistance Program; $100 million from the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program; $40 million from the Federal Highway Emergency Road Repair Program; $205 million from the Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funding; and $5 million approved from the Department of Interior.
Department of Public Works Commissioner Nelson Petty presented a report on the many ongoing and upcoming road projects underway across the Territory. He reported that the Main Street Enhancement Project is scheduled to be completed by April 2019; Turpentine Run Bridge, locally referred to as the “Bridge to Nowhere” is 75 percent complete; and reconstruction of sections of the Melvin Evans Highway have been given notices to proceed, while others are awaiting Federal Highway concurrence. In addition, work has begun in Estate Catherine’s Rest, Scenic Drive, Clifton Hill and Estate La Grande Princess on St. Croix.
The new roads will be upgraded with proper foundations and drainage and outfitted with American Disabilities Act certified sidewalks, reflectors, traffic signals, and crosswalks, Governor Mapp reported. They will also accommodate water, sewage, and power lines, fiber optic cables, and will be suitable for various other communication systems. New street signs will be lit at night with the Department of Tourism’s logo of the moko jumbie at the center. In addition to reconstructing the road systems, $10 million from the CDBG will be set aside to remove all the dumpsters off the roads so that refuse centers can be constructed.
This “massive” undertaking will require a number of additional engineers and project managers. “We are essentially launching a new Highway Division at Public Works and we will need a lot more staff,” the Governor said.
He said it was important to note that some roads would receive temporary fixes until they can be fully reconstructed and that there will be many areas where Public Works will authorize asphalt overlays until permanent construction can begin.
Mapp said that the recovery from Hurricanes Irma and Maria has afforded the Virgin Islands tremendous opportunity.
He reiterated that the modernization of the territory’s infrastructure has been made possible by the U.S. Congress’ vote in February 2018 and the leadership and support of President Donald Trump.