CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Accompanied by public and private partners, Governor Kenneth Mapp broke ground Tuesday on the much awaited Veterans Drive improvement project on St. Thomas.
Over $120 million, much from already appropriated federal aid, will be spent on what is described as the “single largest road project in United States Virgin Islands history.”
“There are some who say I like to build,” Governor Mapp said. “I agree: I am a builder. I also like to break down old things,” he added, as he emphasized that his Administration’s goal is not just to preserve the status quo, but to challenge existing conditions by offering solutions for age-old problems besetting the territory.
The project to modernize and revive the downtown Charlotte Amalie waterfront was first envisioned 34 years ago, receiving its first environmental approval in October 1984. After innumerable re-evaluations and delays, it was finally approved in Summer 2017 with Governor Mapp’s strong backing.
A $42 million loan funds the project’s first phase, beginning at the Lucinda Millin intersection and ending west of the Hospital Gade intersection at Fort Christian Parking Lot. The second phase invests $60 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funding that Governor Mapp has been negotiating for.
The project adds two additional lanes and a new pedestrian promenade along the harbor, supported by a strong sea wall. An additional sidewalk along the north side will also ensure a safer walking and sightseeing experience for residents and visitors and the Department of Public Works foresees the project easing traffic congestion and improving safety for motorists and pedestrians.
Adding traffic signals and an improved storm drainage underpins the upgrade while bastion-like projections along the promenade, along with landscaping and improved lighting for pedestrians, will improve the look of the waterfront area and amplify the many cultural and historical features that downtown Charlotte Amalie has to offer.
“Nothing happens before its time,” said Lt. Governor Osbert E. Potter. “It’s time to get started and put people to work … this is a project for our veterans and this is the beginning of a lot of good things.”
Governor Mapp added that the Veterans Drive project is a part of the administration’s larger mission to reconstruct and improve the territory and to project the U.S. Virgin Islands as a premier destination across the Caribbean and the world.
“We are committed to rebuilding the infrastructure, improving the quality of life, increasing private sector activity, and elevating the experiences of visitors to our shores,” he concluded.
The project is a public-private collaboration whose partners include the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, the Virgin Islands Department of Public Works, Public Finance Authority, Department of Planning and Natural Resources, Department of Property and Procurement, Department of Justice, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Downtown Revitalization Inc., the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce, and the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands.
Businessman Richard Driehaus provided financial support to call upon the technical expertise of town planning specialists Dover, Kohl & Partners. The project’s design team includes WSP Global Inc., the Jaredian Design Group and Public Works’ project management team led by Design Program Manager Jomo McClean.