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No End in Sight for Frenchtown Sign Controversy

July 1, 2005 — A No Right Turn sign at the intersection of Altona and Veterans Drive continues to foster disapproval from Frenchtown residents and various officials. And it appears the situation isn't going to be resolved any time soon.
The sign was installed by the Department of Public Works in early June. It effectively blocks one of two entrances to Frenchtown and forces eastbound traffic to make detours in order to gain access to the area (See "Frenchtown Residents Decry Blocked Access to Their Town".)
The V.I. Police Department, which has sole authority over all roadway and traffic changes, had no initial knowledge of the sign's installation. On June 22 the police department met with DPW and Frenchtown residents to discuss the matter (See "Frenchtown Signs ‘Sacked’ Temporarily".)
Since members of the press were not allowed to attend the meeting, no definitive information has been released to the community. However, disagreement has arisen between attendees as to what took place.
In a letter released Thursday to acting DPW Commissioner George Phillips, Sen. Lorraine Berry expresses outrage over new plans to reroute traffic in Frenchtown from "south to north" on the road.
"This change was not discussed at the June 22 meeting at the Police Commissioner’s office … and would be disastrous [if implemented]," Berry wrote. As an example, Berry cited that driveways to homes in Honduras were designed to accommodate traffic flowing from north to south and would therefore be disrupted by the change.
However, Police Commissioner Elton Lewis said the plan was discussed. "The VIPD, DPW, and members from the Frenchtown community came together and discussed a number of options … then we came to an agreement on one specific option."
Mr. Creole owner Charlie Magras was one of two Frenchtown residents in attendance at the meeting. He said that there were three options presented — no right turn from Davis Funeral Home, traffic rerouting, or the installation of a traffic light at the intersection — but did not confirm that there was an agreement.
"What was said is that there will be no right turn from July 11," Magras said. "[DPW and Public Safety] is going to try that out for two weeks, and after that there will be a meeting at the Frenchtown Community Center on July 26 for residents to talk about it."
Magras added that the No Right Turn sign was taken down around noon on Friday. "There were a whole bunch of new signs put up around 7:30 [on Friday morning], and they were all taken down by 12 [noon]. Commissioner Phillips said that he doesn’t know who authorized it … he said that the only change to be made was that there would be no right turn from Davis Funeral Home, but the people in his office seem to imply that there will be other changes, and the signs put up looked like there would be other changes."
Berry’s letter also referred to the fact that a DPW publicity campaign to explain new traffic plans to the community has not occurred.
"We did have it planned for July 1, but out of fairness to the Frenchtown residents, we have decided to extend the changing of the sign until the community has been properly notified and undergone an education program on the reasons of the sign and what’s going to happen," Lewis said.
The commissioner added that residents were not given proper notification before the sign went up and changes were implemented.
"There will be a meeting next Wednesday at the community center to explain what’s going to happen on July 11," Magras said. "But since there are different stories, nobody knows what’s going on … we’re at a loss. The public doesn’t know whether they are coming or going. But whatever the changes, it’s definitely going to affect the businesses of Frenchtown."
A press release, circulated on Friday by VIPD Public Relations Officer Sgt. Thomas Hannah, lays out the new changes and claims that they are necessary due to the increased traffic on Veterans Drive.
"By allowing the turn as it is presently, traffic is impeded as motorists wait for westbound traffic lanes to clear, resulting in long delays," the release said.
The changes and process are as follows:
–Signage will remain covered until the education program is completed on July 11;
–A traffic flow study of the entire Frenchtown community will be conducted from July 1 to Feb. 2006;
–Rue de Carenage will become a one-way road north from the south End of Demarara Road—a one way sign will also be placed at the south end;
–Residents will not be able to make a right turn at the intersection of Rue de Carenage and Veterans Drive — a No Right Turn sign will be placed in this location;
–Demarara Road will be a one-way road from Southside to Northside;
–There will be new No Right Turn signs installed along yellow lines at the break in median in front of Rue de Carenage to inform motorists of the prohibition;
–Public Works will rework the roadway on Veterans Drive to allow more lane capacity.
A meeting will be held on July 26 at 6:30 PM at the Frenchtown Community Center for residents to review the traffic flow changes.
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