On Monday, the V.I. Port Authority celebrated the completion of phase one of the terminal expansion and modernization of St. Croix’s Henry E. Rohlsen Airport at the airport terminal.
An estimated $7 million for the project was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration, and the VIPA provided a matching fund of $1.6 million for phase one. The estimated cost for the four phases in total is projected at $140 million.
This is the fourth project that the contractor company J. Benton Construction LLC has taken on for the authority. J. Benton’s president, James Benton, said that despite difficulties, they were able to complete earlier than their expected date of 2022. The project began in October 2020.
In phase one, the 5,500 square feet of the walkway space was increased in capacity, the passenger lounge and restrooms were also refurbished, and additional concessions space was created. Mechanical systems for the new air-conditioned terminal were upgraded.
“This terrazzo floor took 60,000 pounds of material to put into place. To put that into perspective, that is two-thirds of the weight of a Boeing 737 that had to be imported and mixed on the island and put it. Just to give you an idea of what it takes to make this a reality,” said Benton.
The renovations of the airport have arrived at a great time as flight traffic has increased, according to Commissioner of Tourism Joseph Boschulte.
“Before the pandemic, 70 percent of our traffic came on a cruise. Right now, over 90 percent of our traffic comes from the overnight guest. The overnight visitor spends differently than the cruise visitor,” said Boschulte.
Throughout the ceremony, there was much praise for V.I. Port Authority Executive Director Carlton Dowe. During his remarks, Dowe recognized the port authority, officials, and everybody who played a critical role in helping with the project.
“Leadership does not mean you are not going to take the criticism when it comes. Leadership still dictates that we do the things we believe to be in the best interest of the masses of the people regardless of how it may be uncomfortable for some.” Dowe also mentioned that there are $75 million worth of projects currently going on in St. Croix today for the V.I. Port Authority.
Congresswoman Stacy E. Plaskett also made remarks and mentioned different avenues available for funding to continue with the improvements. She expressed confidence that Dowe would be able to achieve the funding.
Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. expressed much excitement and said, “Today is about leadership in so many ways.” He also announced his strategy for new leadership for Schneider Regional Medical Center, Juan F. Luis Hospital, and the Water and Power Authority. He clearly indicated that Dowe had set the bar.
“We don’t have to agree on everything, but we do have to work together, and we do have to put the people of the Virgin Islands before all of our egos and aspirations and make sure that it gets done,” said Bryan.