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Territory’s road system to be fully modernized, $530 million allocated to first phase

April 24, 2018

ST. THOMAS, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS - All of the primary roads in the U.S. Virgin Islands will be completely rebuilt to US Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Highway standards, Governor Kenneth E. Mapp announced Tuesday.

For the first time in history, a full assessment of the Territory’s 1,273-mile public road system was conducted in order to determine conditions after the storms and the estimated cost of a comprehensive rebuilding and repair program. After completion of the assessment, the Department of Public Works, with the assistance of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Witt O'Brien’s, concluded it will cost $1.2 billion to bring all Virgin Islands’ public roads up to DOT standards, Governor Mapp said at this morning's news conference.

“In three to five years our road system will be essentially unrecognizable from what it is today,” Governor Mapp said. “I am committed to working to modernize our roads and thoroughfares so that potholes and other road issues become experiences of the past.”

As of today, $530 million has been approved and will be invested into the first phase of construction of modern roads and highways across all four islands.

This amount includes the $100 million already pledged for the GARVEE road projects. The remaining $430 million will come from multiple funding sources: $80 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Public Assistance Program; $100 million from the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program; $40 million from the Federal Highway Emergency Road Repair Program; $205 million from the Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funding; and $5 million approved from the Department of Interior.

Department of Public Works Commissioner Nelson Petty presented a report on the many ongoing and upcoming road projects underway across the Territory. He reported that the Main Street Enhancement Project is scheduled to be completed by April 2019; Turpentine Run Bridge, locally referred to as the “Bridge to Nowhere” is 75 percent complete; and reconstruction of sections of the Melvin Evans Highway have been given notices to proceed, while others are awaiting Federal Highway concurrence. In addition, work has begun in Estate Catherine’s Rest, Scenic Drive, Clifton Hill and Estate La Grande Princess on St. Croix.

The new roads will be upgraded with proper foundations and drainage and outfitted with American Disabilities Act certified sidewalks, reflectors, traffic signals, and crosswalks, Governor Mapp reported. They will also accommodate water, sewage, and power lines, fiber optic cables, and will be suitable for various other communication systems. New street signs will be lit at night with the Department of Tourism’s logo of the moko jumbie at the center. In addition to reconstructing the road systems, $10 million from the CDBG will be set aside to remove all the dumpsters off the roads so that refuse centers can be constructed.

This massive undertaking will require a number of additional engineers and project managers. “We are essentially launching a new Highway Division at Public Works and we will need a lot more staff,” the Governor said.

He said it was important to note that some roads would receive temporary fixes until they can be fully reconstructed and that there will be many areas where Public Works will authorize asphalt overlays until permanent construction can begin.

Governor Mapp said that the recovery from Hurricanes Irma and Maria has afforded the Virgin Islands tremendous opportunity. He reiterated that the modernization of the Territory’s infrastructure has been made possible by the U.S. Congress’ vote in February 2018 and the leadership and support of President Donald J. Trump.