St. John Tradewinds News

DPW on Track To Seek Bids for Texaco Roundabout Project in June

Plans for the Texaco roundabout are 90 percent complete, and the Department of Public Works is on track to advertise for bids for the project in June of this year.

During a two-day “90 percent design meeting” in January, the traffic plan, moving utilities, and affects on neighboring business owners were discussed, according to DPW Territorial Highway Program Manager Wystan Benjamin.

“We had an office meeting one day, and we did the next day in the field on St. John,” said Benjamin. “We are really gearing up.”

While on island, Benjamin met with owners and managers of surrounding businesses, including the Boulon Center and Dolphin Market.

There were several issues the neighboring businesses could face that DPW took into consideration, explained Benjamin.

Ensuring Parking
“One of the things we discussed at the meeting was whether we’ll relocate the generator system for the building, which we won’t have to do,” he said. “We also came up with a plan as to how we’ll stage the construction so there will always be some parking at Dolphin Market. We are not going to permanently take out any parking with the construction of the roundabout.”

DPW will also have to excavate close to the Boulon Center and Dolphin Market, Benjamin explained.
“There’s a retaining wall that will go in which is very sensitive, because it’s going to be very close to the building,” he said. “We are going to have to build the wall in small sections, and there will be some underpinning of the existing foundation of the building to make sure that it’s not jeopardized during construction.”

The Julius E. Sprauve School annex, the Clarice Thomas Building, will also be affected, Benjamin explained.

Moving Annex Primary Entrance
“We met with the school rep, because we are going to move the primary entrance from the west side of the building to the east side,” he said. “The curb is going to cut close to the west side, so there will still be access, but we’re not going to have them use the west side as a primary entrance. They will go along the the sidewalk to the east side of the building, down the stairs and into the classroom.”

How the Texaco gas station property — which the government acquired through eminent domain — will be used during construction was also discussed at the 90 percent design meeting, according to Benjamin.

“We also discussed reserving space at the gas station for parking during construction,” he said. “We will reserve that space for any additional parking or operations during construction.”

The Texaco gas station, which will be required to move once the roundabout construction begins, is operating under a month-to-month agreement with the government, according to DPW St. John Deputy Director Ira Wade.

St. John Texaco owner Robert O’Connor Jr. was not available last week to comment on where the gas station will be relocated.

No Major Permit Required
“They are operating on a month-to-month basis, and they will be required to move, unless there is a change, by the end of July 2007,” said Wade.

In a bit of good news for DPW, the major Coastal Zone Management permit that the department thought it would need for construction of the roundabout is, in fact, not necessary, as the property falls in Tier 2 of the coastal zone.

“We got a break on the permits,” said Benjamin. “We originally thought we’d need a major CZM permit, but we’ve gotten confirmation from Carl Howard at the St. John CZM office that the proposed roundabout is in Tier 2. We’ll be submitting for a minor permit, which saves us a whole long process.”

The remaining 10 percent of the roundabout design consists mainly of traffic patterns and moving utilities, explained Benjamin.

Traffic Pattern ‘Big Item’
“The remaining 10 percent is mostly the traffic control, which is a big, big item right now under discussion,” he said. “We originally had about 14 different stages of construction, because we wanted to maintain some form of traffic all the time instead of shutting down the intersection. We decided at the design meeting that 14 stages was entirely too many.”

DPW is now investigating reducing the number of stages of construction while maintaining traffic flow through the major Cruz Bay intersection.

“What we’re looking at now is actually scaling it down some,” said Benjamin. “We should be able to close off one section, which will enable us to do all of the work on that side before we move to another section of the roundabout to be built. I’m anticipating being able to cut down from 14 stages of construction.”

Despite the reduction in stages of construction, Benjamin anticipates that traffic flow will be maintained at the construction site.

Utilities to be Rerouted
“We shouldn’t have to shut it down,” Benjamin said. “We can always maintain one lane of traffic. It’s just a matter of sequencing the shut down in such a way that we can still maintain traffic through the intersection most of the time.”

DPW is working with several different Virgin Islands businesses and governmental agencies in an attempt to reroute utilities in the area of the proposed roundabout, according to Benjamin.

“There is a lot of work ongoing now with the Water and Power Authority, Innovative Telephone and Cable and the Waste Management Authority,” he said. “WAPA has both power and water that have to be relocated, and Waste Management has sewer lines that have to be relocated. Each agency is kind of working on their own little piece of it.”

Construction of the roundabout will take approximately one year to complete, according to Benjamin.