The reconstruction and renovation of the U.S. Virgin Islands’ airports and seaports is steadily progressing. The Virgin Islands Port Authority (VIPA) documented $87 million in damages after the territory’s ports, which include over 120 properties, were struck by two Category 5 hurricanes in September 2017.
VIPA’s contractor, Lemartec Inc., has completed 70 percent of the Cyril E. King Airport (CEKA) Terminal roof replacement. The entire 240,000-square-foot roof is being upgraded to a stronger metal and two-ply membrane roof. The project should be finished by November 2018. As the terminal’s roof repairs are completed, travelers will begin to see significant aesthetic improvements made to the terminal’s interior – including the ceiling, gate areas and the restrooms.
The CEKA Terminal’s public-address system is being expanded and upgraded so that airline employees can communicate with their passengers throughout the terminal. VIPA’s air conditioning contractor will begin repairs to the terminal’s air handling system next week. VIPA’s board also recently approved several task orders to repair the terminal’s exhaust fans, air conditioning system and roof skylights. Additionally, VIPA is soliciting proposals for the reconstruction of the airport’s apron at Gate 5. Bids are due by Sept. 17; the project is expected to begin shortly after a contractor is selected.
The Henry E. Rohlsen Airport (HERA) Terminal’s roof repairs are expected to begin in September. The hurricane-damaged roof at the new Airport Rescue Fire Fighter facility at HERA has been completely reconstructed, and VIPA’s firefighters on St. Croix now have a state-of-the-art fire station.
While repairs are ongoing, both airport terminals are being redesigned to accommodate an increase in air traffic to the territory and to provide a first-rate travel experience for visitors and residents. VIPA hosted a design charrette on St. Thomas in June to unveil its plans to expand and modernize the CEKA Terminal including: expanded parking and ground transportation facilities; utilizing the second floor of the terminal and adding jet bridges; and a new transportation facility to facilitate travel from the airport to the British Virgin Islands.
A charrette was also held on St. Croix on Aug. 21 at HERA to present VIPA’s vision to upgrade the airport’s terminal. VIPA received positive and constructive feedback from the attendees and will continue to accept suggestions to be included in the final design until Sept. 21. Comments can be sent to [email protected]
Repairs to VIPA’s administrative office near the airport on St. Thomas will begin in September. During the repair and construction process, VIPA’s administrative, legal and executive offices will temporarily be relocated to Crown Bay Center. The purchasing building adjacent to the administrative office will also be demolished and rebuilt on the foundation of the existing building.
VIPA completed construction of a temporary U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) checkpoint at the Urman Fredericks Marine Terminal in Red Hook. Passenger ferries arriving from foreign ports can now clear customs in Red Hook instead of traveling to downtown Charlotte Amalie at the Edward Blyden Terminal. This time-saving amenity has improved the travelers’ experience between the U.S.V.I. and the British Virgin Islands. CBP is also providing customs services for private pleasure boats at the Victor Sewer Facility (The Creek) on St. John to accommodate the charter industry that has become an integral component of St. John’s economy.
The completion of the two-level parking garage at the Urman Fredericks Terminal in Red Hook has been extended due to design upgrades. VIPA anticipates that this will be the final delay; the new parking facility will be open early next year.
Other ongoing VIPA port improvement projects include:
Designs for a new air cargo facility at HERA and a new marine terminal for the container port on St. Croix are being reviewed by VIPA’s engineering department. A final design for these facilities will be ready before the end of the year.
VIPA continues to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to finalize the dredging permit for the Schooner Bay Channel. This dredging will allow mini-cruise and other luxury vessels to berth at Gallows Bay in Christiansted, St. Croix.
The Port Authority has applied to the Department of Planning and Natural Resources’ Coastal Zone Management Commission to dredge approximately 232,000 cubic yards of material from the Charlotte Amalie Harbor. This dredging project will be funded by federal monies from a Community Development Block Grant issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The grant was applied for by the Government of the Virgin Islands and will allow Oasis-class vessels to berth at the West Indian Company Dock in Havensight, St. Thomas.
For more information about VIPA’s recovery and rebuilding progress, contact the Port Authority’s Monifa Brathwaite, public information officer, at 774-1629 or [email protected].