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Saturday, May 28, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesIT'S TIME TO IMPLEMENT TRANSPORTATION PLAN

IT'S TIME TO IMPLEMENT TRANSPORTATION PLAN

Federal highway funds are a major source of revenue for the Virgin Islands. The way these funds are used has an enormous impact on the economy and the community.
Federal legislation enacted in 1991 encourages the use of federal highway funds to solve traffic congestion and parking problems in a variety of ways as well as the following:
– Historic preservation.
– Landscaping and beautification.
– Scenic or historic highway programs.
– Public participation programs.
– Urban planning and design.
– Comprehensive and community-based transportation planning.
Projects such as "Plan 8", a four-lane highway proposed on harbor fill in Charlotte Amalie, and "Alternative D", highway expansion proposed from Long Bay Road to Raphune Hill, are examples of how these funds are being used without meaningful community participation and planning.
At a 1997 public hearing, citizens were told they had five minutes each to express their thoughts about "Plan 8," a project that would permanently alter and define the future of Charlotte Amalie. Official literature circulated prior to the hearing stated that these funds would be lost if not used to develop this project.
This is not true. Federal authorities have indicated that the funds will remain available until a more appropriate plan is devised.
"Alternative D" cannot proceed because of problems as to how and when it was approved.
"Plan 8" moved forward only because the public was misinformed and written testimony from community groups opposing it was excluded from a 1997 federal document entitled the "Finding of No Significant Impact. Lack of accurate information and a flawed process led to ill-conceived projects that have serious concerns:
–"Plan 8" severs the vital connection of Charlotte Amalie to its harbor and permanently disfigures its historic character and natural beauty.
– Only $20.5 million is allocated for "Plan 8" and "Alternative D" which are estimated to cost a minimum of $71 million ($3.7 million has already been expended in studies and engineering fees).
– Serious shortfall in funding means an indefinite construction period, resulting in years (perhaps decades) of traffic delays that could negate the alleged "improvement to commute time."
– "Plan 8" would consume all available funds, thereby preventing affordable projects that could alleviate traffic congestion and parking problems now.
– "Plan 8" fails to address the island-wide sources of congestion:
poorly designed intersections, irregularly timed signals, ineffective use of water freight and passenger transportation, inadequate mass transit, inferior alternate routes etc.
– Countless studies-including several by the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies of Science-have proven statistically that the majority of new road capacity increases traffic congestion because bigger highways attract more vehicles. This means that "Plan 8/Alternate D" would matters worse not only in the construction phase but also in the long term.
– A "park" (proposed on harbor fill) is showcased with the current "Plan 8" presentation even though it was eliminated from the project.
This is substantiated in a 1998 federal document entitled the "Revised Record of Decision."
– The majority of proposed landscaping and beautification for "Plan 8" has no funding source.
A federally assisted transportation and community development workshop held in St. Thomas in 1999 focused on transportation issues and spent several days identifying solutions. The result was 43 projects that address serious traffic congestion, pedestrian movement and parking problems in Charlotte Amalie and St. Thomas. Many of these projects could be implemented immediately while a community-based transportation plan is developed.
It is now critical to involve the public in a planning process that ensures federal highway funds are used in the community’s best interest.
Editor's note: José Corbin Ortega, a St. Thomas resident, has a graduate degree in architecture from the University of Pennsylvania. He was a consultant for the reconstruction of Emancipation Garden.

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Federal highway funds are a major source of revenue for the Virgin Islands. The way these funds are used has an enormous impact on the economy and the community.
Federal legislation enacted in 1991 encourages the use of federal highway funds to solve traffic congestion and parking problems in a variety of ways as well as the following:
– Historic preservation.
– Landscaping and beautification.
– Scenic or historic highway programs.
– Public participation programs.
– Urban planning and design.
– Comprehensive and community-based transportation planning.
Projects such as "Plan 8", a four-lane highway proposed on harbor fill in Charlotte Amalie, and "Alternative D", highway expansion proposed from Long Bay Road to Raphune Hill, are examples of how these funds are being used without meaningful community participation and planning.
At a 1997 public hearing, citizens were told they had five minutes each to express their thoughts about "Plan 8," a project that would permanently alter and define the future of Charlotte Amalie. Official literature circulated prior to the hearing stated that these funds would be lost if not used to develop this project.
This is not true. Federal authorities have indicated that the funds will remain available until a more appropriate plan is devised.
"Alternative D" cannot proceed because of problems as to how and when it was approved.
"Plan 8" moved forward only because the public was misinformed and written testimony from community groups opposing it was excluded from a 1997 federal document entitled the "Finding of No Significant Impact. Lack of accurate information and a flawed process led to ill-conceived projects that have serious concerns:
--"Plan 8" severs the vital connection of Charlotte Amalie to its harbor and permanently disfigures its historic character and natural beauty.
– Only $20.5 million is allocated for "Plan 8" and "Alternative D" which are estimated to cost a minimum of $71 million ($3.7 million has already been expended in studies and engineering fees).
– Serious shortfall in funding means an indefinite construction period, resulting in years (perhaps decades) of traffic delays that could negate the alleged "improvement to commute time."
– "Plan 8" would consume all available funds, thereby preventing affordable projects that could alleviate traffic congestion and parking problems now.
– "Plan 8" fails to address the island-wide sources of congestion:
poorly designed intersections, irregularly timed signals, ineffective use of water freight and passenger transportation, inadequate mass transit, inferior alternate routes etc.
– Countless studies-including several by the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies of Science-have proven statistically that the majority of new road capacity increases traffic congestion because bigger highways attract more vehicles. This means that "Plan 8/Alternate D" would matters worse not only in the construction phase but also in the long term.
– A "park" (proposed on harbor fill) is showcased with the current "Plan 8" presentation even though it was eliminated from the project.
This is substantiated in a 1998 federal document entitled the "Revised Record of Decision."
– The majority of proposed landscaping and beautification for "Plan 8" has no funding source.
A federally assisted transportation and community development workshop held in St. Thomas in 1999 focused on transportation issues and spent several days identifying solutions. The result was 43 projects that address serious traffic congestion, pedestrian movement and parking problems in Charlotte Amalie and St. Thomas. Many of these projects could be implemented immediately while a community-based transportation plan is developed.
It is now critical to involve the public in a planning process that ensures federal highway funds are used in the community’s best interest.
Editor's note: José Corbin Ortega, a St. Thomas resident, has a graduate degree in architecture from the University of Pennsylvania. He was a consultant for the reconstruction of Emancipation Garden.