After several attempts by previous administrations to get it done, a long defunct Street Addressing Initiative is now getting a second wind under the Lieutenant Governor’s Office, with actual deadlines set to finish pilots on St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix.
At a news conference Wednesday, officials cited examples of residents who found it difficult to guide insurance representatives, Federal Emergency Management Agency inspectors and even emergency responders to their houses. Creating a live grid of street addresses across the territory – starting first with the historic towns, and then extending to all other neighborhoods – is a “missing piece of critical infrastructure,” officials said.
Starting at the end October, this most recent initiative picks up where others have left off, and aims to complete work in Charlotte Amalie by the end of December, Cruz Bay on St. John by the end of February and both historical towns on St. Croix by the end of April. The goal of the project is to create a navigable addressing system, get all addresses recorded in a master repository, and to link that data to all other service agencies that use addresses regularly, including utility providers, postal services, waste management and other “planning entities,” officials said.
So far, a strategic plan for the project with street naming protocols has been created, and Lt. Gov. Tregenza Roach said Wednesday that the public will also be actively involved in getting to name, or rename, streets within their neighborhoods.
He also said the project could improve various services in a way that will also “drive our economy” and take it “into a new century” with reliable data and navigation that makes it easier to drive, locate and operate.
Partners in the project so far include the V.I. Police Department, V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency, Public Works, Fire Service, Planning and Natural Resources, Waste Management, Viya, Housing Finance Authority and the U.S. Postal Service. And, according to officials, giving these entities the addresses they need allows them to be more “efficient in their daily duties.”
Asked why he thinks the project can succeed again where it hasn’t before, Roach said there is new opportunity to offer support, both in terms of staffing and financially, with potential funding available through U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grants.
“Many of the employees that were involved in the previous projects are still working in our office,” Roach pointed out. “We see the opportunity in Block Grant funding to expand the project, while providing additional support on the administrative level.”
Speaking from a different angle, local economist Frank Mills said the lack of a reliable street addressing system has kept the territory from being included in a national survey that provides real housing and population data – like a census – and opens up opportunities for more federal funding.
Mills said previous stakeholders in the project have lobbied for the U.S. Virgin Islands to be involved, but to no avail.
“Once we establish an addressing system, we can now say that we want to be included,” Mills said. “Then, every year, the Virgin Islands would have available data that we have not had before in the real sense. A number of federal agencies also allocate money to the territory based on that data, so it is important for us to be taking this real step toward getting the addressing system done.”
More information is available online at Frequently Asked Questions About the Street Addressing Initiative.