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Smalls: Bypass Will Open in About 30 days

The Christiansted Bypass, under construction since 2007 and a few months passed its original completion date, should open for traffic within the next 30 days, Commissioner of Public Works Darryl Smalls said in a statement Friday on the status of major territorial road projects.

Public Works broke ground on the bypass in May 2007. It had been in the planning stages since 1975. The bypass is designed to relieve traffic congestion, improve safety and restrict large vehicles through downtown Christiansted.

It begins at the existing Contentment Road andwinds east to a terminus at the intersection of Hospital Street, East End Road and Mt. Welcome Road.

The project includes construction of two 12-foot lanes, paved shoulders, a climbing lane on the east end, sidewalks with curb along the north side, streetlights and traffic signals. The multi-phase project is fully funded by the Federal Highway Administration.

Testifying to the V.I. Senate in 2007 before the project commenced, Smalls said, “the first phase is to be complete in 2009, then it will be another two years at least for the remainder.”

In 2008, a rock slide delayed work and extended the scope of the project while tests were done and more slope stabilization work was put in place.

At the beginning of this year, Public Works listed Sep. 28 as the likely opening date, but in May Smalls testified that may be extended by 60 days "to address the initial issues with the project grading, asphalt submittal progress and the installation of a pipe liner."

In October, Smalls told senators the road should be finished by the end of the year. If the work requires the entire 30 days of the estimate, it may be complete a few days after the new year.

The project will undergo inspection and then public officials will hold a ceremony to formally open the bypass road, Smalls said.

Looking at other projects, the Public Works director said restoration of the Rothschild Francis “Market” Square area continues on schedule and on budget. He acknowledged work in that area has challenged motorists, businesses and Savan residents, but said many of the roads that were closed at the time of that meeting have since reopened.

Currently, the only Savan road still blocked to traffic is the one that travels east from 75 Corner to the Green Corner store, where reconstruction of water, electrical and drainage lines continues. It is likely a lane will be opened along that road ahead of schedule, Smalls said.

Smalls said work on the Market Square project has been successful, with crews already having laid cobblestone and installed underground infrastructure. More still needs to be done, however, to complete landscaping, signage, street-scaping and new traffic signals that take on a more historic look. Public Works is looking forward to a completion date in April, but construction will halt on Dec. 20 and resume again in January to accommodate holiday motorists, he said.

On the Northside of St. Thomas, construction is progressing hastily on a long-term project referred to as the Crown Mountain Slide. The contractor is building a wall structure to maintain the road in an area that once held dumpsters, and where major drainage problems impacted the roadway.

The project is one of three active on the Northside of the island. The others are the laying of underground broadband internet fiberoptic cables as part of the V.I. Next Generation Network and the recently completed restoration of a section of Hull Bay Road.

The fourth and final phase of construction on Long Bay Road is continuing in Havensight. The construction area between Mandela Circle and the entrance to the West Indian Company dock should alleviate flooding by installing underground drainage, he said.

Crews are also installing a new water line and underground conduits to remove overhead power lines, then two more lanes of traffic will be added. Ultimately, four lanes will serve the area – a major part of the overall traffic congestion mitigation effort between Havensight and downtown Charlotte Amalie, according to the director.

Crews are continuing work widening the Raphune Hill intersection adjacent to Wheatley Center to minimize congestion that usually affects drivers traveling down Raphune Hill.

As part of the Raphune Hill project, crews will reroute downhill traffic through Oswald Harris Court Sunday at 5 a.m. to allow crews to complete a drainage structure. Eastbound motorists will have one lane available to pass through the construction zone, Small said.

“We recognize rerouting traffic will impact motorists, but this work is critical and essential to complete this project,” Smalls said, advising motorists to use alternate routes if possible until the roadway reopens in both directions on Monday afternoon.

Public Works is also preparing to advertise two requests for proposals – one involving the island-wide paving project to restore the roadway around Juan Luis Hospital and major repairs at the end of Midland Road in Estate Calquohoun, where the road is in “deplorable condition,” Smalls said.

Another RFP will solicit contractors to restore Melvin Evans Highway from East Airport Road west to the traffic signal just beyond the entrance of the police station, where extensive work needs to be done, accoprding to Smalls.

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