June 12, 2005 — A trip around St. Croix shows the Big Island is truly changing the face it presents to visitors.
For island residents it may seem that some projects are taking forever. However, a recent review of capital projects with Keith Richards, the governor's assistant for capital projects, shows that most projects are on schedule, and one is even ahead of schedule.
Richards said Friday the $11 million Frederiksted Waterfront Revitalization project is 75 percent complete and ahead of schedule. He added that the project's completion "will add to the overall attractiveness of the package St. Croix offers to tourists."
At the northern end of town, the clock in Clock Tower Plaza has a new face, and Vendors Square has eight permanent vendor stations. On the east side of the tower are a semicircle of seven flagpoles designed to highlight the island's diverse history by flying the flags of the seven countries who at one time or another called St. Croix their own.
A walkway begins at the plaza and snakes its way through the entire waterfront area. The area between Strand Street and the ocean is landscaped with several types of palm trees and flowering plants. Hardwood benches with decorative wrought iron work and matching trash receptacles dot the park. Star Plaza and Market Street Plaza also were spruced up.
Richards said the project will be completed by the end of July. Contractors in May had said they planned to turn the project over to the government by June 30. (See "Frederiksted Will Rise Again").
On the Christiansted side of the island, visitors and guests will also be offered the opportunity to take long pleasant walks along the harbor. The first extension to the present boardwalk is expected to also open at the end of July. The boardwalk now ending at the Mix Restaurant will extend to the Seaborne plane dock.
According to Richards, the second phase of the boardwalk project also appears to be on track. This part will be from Fort Christianvaern to Gallows Bay.
Richards said the Army Corp of Engineers did have some concerns about that section of the walk and were going to make a site visit next week. He said if everything went well at that meeting that section could be completed by year's end.
The boardwalk to Gallows Bay won't be continuous with the present boardwalk. Walkers will be guided from the end of the present boardwalk on a path around the front of Fort Christianvaern Park and then back to the waterfront and boardwalk.
Joel Tutein, supervisor of the V.I. National Park, said park officials are extremely happy at the thought of many more visitors walking by the fort's front gate.
Christiansted residents should also soon see relief from the traffic jamming downtown streets. A bypass, which has been in the planning stage for a long time, may finally get constructed. The bypass will start at Pickard Plaza on the west side of town, skirt to the south of town and join the East End Road near Canegata Park. Richards said there were problems with the original design fitting the terrain. But that has been worked out, and a contract should be awarded before the end of this year.
This will take traffic pressure off areas such as Sunday Market Square, where a $1.8 million renovation project was finished earlier this year. Currently no new tenants have leased the renovated buildings, and there have been questions if tourists or residents will walk from downtown center to the square because of abandoned areas in between. However, several private properties in the area have been getting facelifts.
In a press release last week, Richards said there are 12 capital projects being started or finished this year on St. Croix.
Besides those already mentioned, a $12 million Mon Bijou flood control project is underway, and a $6 million Phase 2 redevelopment of the Charles Harwood Hospital is now complete. He added that work at the Youth Rehabilitation Center in Anna's Hope has been completed, as well as work at the Community Center at the David Canegata Ballpark.
Most of the other projects concern the rehabilitation, restoration and renovation of roads.
One project eagerly awaited by mid-island residents is Midland Road.
The Department of Public Works began soliciting bids on June 1 for Phase 1 of the project. The first phase includes the 2.1-mile stretch of Midland Road between Coble Village and Route 75 (Northside Road). Work is slated to begin before summer's end.
In his press release Richards also noted, "The $25 million sewage treatment plant project is presently underway, and when completed, will represent a major milestone in meeting the consent decree requirements of the Environmental Protection Agency."
He said that coming up shortly would be word about the governor's initiative to restore historic buildings for government offices.
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