The infamous Bridge to Nowhere is now going “somewhere” officials said Tuesday, as they celebrated the groundbreaking of a new Turpentine Run project in Estate Nadir on St. Thomas that is meant to cut down on flooding in the area and traffic at the intersection.
Public Works Commissioner Gustav James said the $12.5 million project will complement the recently completed work on Brookman Road, which focused on putting in new drainage solutions that James said were also needed throughout Nadir.
“The existing bridge that is in place is low and what happens when the water comes down in enormous volume is that any debris that are outside get trapped at the bridge,” James said.
“One of the problems is that people often throw trash into the guts and sometimes these are big items like refrigerators and couches and when they come down the gut, they block that bridge and create a dam that causes the water to flow back into the community.”
James said that in order to solve the problem, the old bridge, constructed in 1996 but never completed, will be demolished and replaced by a higher structure that can connect to the roadways in order to eliminate the bottleneck.
“The road is going to be higher, so that traffic will go up and back down on the other side,” James said. The work
includes the realignment of 600 feet of Bolongo Bay Road and 1,200 feet of Turpentine Run Road. It also includes the addition of drainage, sidewalks, roadside safety features, and utility work, among other things.
The total cost of the project, according to federal officials, is $12.5 million. Federal Highway Administration Associate Director Michael Avery said that the Turpentine Run project, which should be complete in the spring of next year, is the first in the Virgin Islands delivered under a new design-build procurement system that enable projects to be completed more quickly and at a lower cost.
Design-build allows for the contracting of a project’s design and construction services to a single entity, which, in this case, is Island Roads.
A new bonding program under the government will also bring in $105 million worth of similar projects on all three islands, Avery added.
Several officials Tuesday also spoke about the project as being a gateway to the new Clinton Phipps Race Track facility. Governor Kenneth Mapp, who has called the Legislature into a special session on Wednesday to consider several related bills,
including anti-doping statutes and the creation of a formula for the distribution of proposed racino revenues, said that $12 million worth of facilities would soon be going up in the neighborhood if the bills are passed, including a 750 parking space facility, bars, restaurants and a revitalized track. After the ceremony, officials also mentioned a new gas station and a mini-mart across the street from where the existing bridge is now.
Speaking later, Senate President Myron and Jackson said that while the expansion of the territory’s sports tourism industry is important, a fine balance also has to be struck between environmental preservation and the expansion of the infrastructure in the area. Jackson said that the Nadir area is a historical watershed that once allowed indigenous tribes to canoe from Tutu Park through to the ocean.
“It is a fine balance that one has to achieve,” Jackson said. “And we hope that once we see areas like the lagoon that’s here now being protected, the wildlife will continue.”