Though the Main Street Revitalization Project has seen lengthy delays, the Veterans Drive Improvement Project is ahead of schedule, V.I. Department of Public Works Commissioner Nelson Petty Jr. said at Tuesday’s hearing with the Committee on Culture, Historic Preservation and Aging.
Phase one of the Veterans Drive Improvement Project has a contract completion date of July 2021, “however we expect this phase to be completed well before that date at the current pace,” Petty said. The massive undertaking of the first phase is contracted to the American Bridge Company at a value of $42.9 million, of which around $24 million has been expended to date.
Petty said the scope of work includes roadway widening, pavement reconstruction, seawall construction, drainage improvements, lighting, installation of a new expanded promenade and landscaping. To date 63 percent of the work has been completed.
“Much to do was made of pubic social media images after the passing of Tropical Storm Karen. However, the project performed as expected, with little to no impact to the newly constructed structure. Steps are being taken to ensure the facility is performing as designed and we intend to also conduct an underwater survey to determine if there was any scouring resulting from the storm surge,” Petty said.
Phase two of the Veterans Drive Improvement Project is under design. Petty said this phase of the project begins on the eastern side of the Legislature and goes around the capitol grounds on the waterside and then heads west. All major permits for this phase were secured simultaneously with phase one of the project Petty added.
The design for phase two is scheduled to be completed in March 2021, with an estimated cost of $100 million. Petty said the work included in this phase will be the widening of narrow lanes on the waterfront from nine to 11 feet, expansion of the promenade which will have a double alley of trees to encourage pedestrian activity, a side access road along the north side of Veterans Drive, raised speed tables for pedestrian crossings, opportunities for sidewalk cafes and other commercial activity, pedestrian and road lighting, a landscaped median and improvements to the plaza area, which will include a water feature.
Petty added that there will be a closure of the existing roadway between the Legislature and Fort Christian, since it will become a pedestrian walkway. There will also be improvements to the Capital Building and parking lot on the south side of the building, provisions for a ferry boat and harbor transportation activity and a prominent water feature will be installed between the new roadway and the Capital Building.
The Veterans Drive Improvement Project along with the Main Street Enhancement Project are “two of the most vital projects to revitalize downtown Charlotte Amalie,” Petty said.
The Main Street Enhancement Project is scheduled to be completed in August 2020.
Petty said the initial contract was issued to Tiptop Construction with a notice to proceed on Jan. 11, 2016. However, Tiptop Construction’s contract was terminated in July of 2017 and the project was rebid and awarded to Island Roads Corporation in October 2017. Petty said construction activity resumed in January 2018.
“In order to minimize the impact economically of this nature D.P.W in partnership with our stakeholders … we agreed to limit the amount of activity during peak tourist seasons. This compromise has resulted in an extended project duration. In 2018 most of the major work on the middle block of Main Street was postponed until the summer months, which is the slow season. This slow season we are focusing on the eastern most block which is scheduled to be completed by the end of November,” Petty said.
Once completed, Main Street will be reopen to traffic.
Because of the narrowness of the roadway Petty said it has become necessary to limit the size of vehicles that traverse the road as well as those that park along the street, an adjustment necessary to allow emergency vehicles access along the street.
After Main Street’s opening in November, work will proceed to the side streets, the Post Office square and the segment of Garden Street that ends at Bunker Hill. This project Petty said is 69 percent completed with a value of work performed to date of $7.9 million which was funded from various sources like the Federal Highway Administration, Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency.
“These projects are integral to beginning to reverse the decline of our district,” St. Thomas/St. John Chamber of Commerce President Sebastiano Paiewonsky-Cassinelli said.
Paiewonsky-Cassinelli said in 2009 something called the Town’s Blueprint was convened, in which all stakeholders within the historic district of Charlotte Amalie came together, collaborated and produced the document. The Town’s Blueprint was a document that put forth “How to create a living and breathing town, a vibrant town,” Paiewonsky-Cassinelli said.
The Main Street Enhancement Project and the Veterans Drive Improvement Project were pieces of the Town’s Blueprint according to Paiewonsky-Cassinelli.
Paiewonsky-Cassinelli said the private sector was invited to collaborate and join the design team. They selected the design group Dover, Kohl and Partners to represent them.
Dover, Kohl has been an integral part of this process as has the private sector, Paiewonsky-Cassinelli said.
Veterans Drive phase one and phase two “will be transformational projects and create attractions within the historic district for both the people who live here and people who visit that will really help make this town come alive. We need a lot more, but this is a start,” Paiewonsky-Cassinelli said.