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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, February 5, 2023
HomeNewsLocal newsEditorial: Roads Driving "Local Tourists" Mad

Editorial: Roads Driving “Local Tourists” Mad

This damaged road on St. Thomas's south side is riddled with potholes. (Source photo by Bethaney Lee)
This damaged road on St. Thomas’s south side is riddled with potholes. (Source photo by Bethaney Lee)

Someone once told me there are three stages of driving in the Virgin Islands. First, you go real slow to avoid the potholes. Then, you learn where the potholes are and drive faster around them. Finally, you drive fast as hell right over every bump in the road.

I’m not going to count how many comments you wrote in about the territory’s roadways — from beautification issues to dangerous craters. The subject was the most common response in this series about looking around your homeland with the fresh eyes of a first-time tourist. Local people wrote in about it. New residents wrote in about it. Long-time visitors wrote in about it. Actual first-time tourists wrote in about it.

It isn’t just the wear and tear on your automobile that has you annoyed. It’s legitimate concern for your safety, the safety of your fellow motorists, and pedestrians nearby.

“I welcome many visitors to our island of St. Croix, and the number one complaint is the poor condition of our roads. Living here, you learn to navigate all the potholes and learn from hard bangs where they are,” one reader wrote in. “The zigzag driving that we locals learn increases the risk of accidents to all drivers. Why has this become acceptable to us?”

The Beast and River Road are popular with walkers and bikers, you said. Unsafe maintenance puts everyone in danger.

“It is an accident ready to happen. Bush is not cut back enough to see approaching cars let alone walkers you have to swerve into the other lane to avoid. Public works needs to address this! It’s a shame you have to risk your life to be healthy,” a reader wrote.

You want the overgrown blind corners cut back, centerline stripes, and shoulder stripes that reflect headlights, and more than anything, the gaping potholes gone.

From when we started the Local Tourist series in May to just last week, you called out North Shore Road, Midland Road, Scenic Drive West, Scenic Drive East, the Melvin Evans Highway, and Gallows Bay area as being especially dangerous. That may have changed in the meantime, but the larger issue lingers.

“The west end of Scenic Drive East is a disaster,” one reader wrote. “The first half from Salt River is beautifully repaired, and then you round the top bend and feel like you made a wrong turn off the road! The bush is so bad it’s less than one lane, and the paving has morphed into deep dirt craters: dangerous driving during the day but downright impassable in the dark. This is a main thoroughfare for vacationers.”

It’s budget season at the Virgin Islands Legislature when Public Works and other departments set and present their priorities. This is not lost on you. Although the budgeting process is complex and requires careful study both inside each department and by the regulators of the Senate and Government House, you called for quicker responses to roadway issues and greater interagency communication.

“The agencies all wail and moan about their budgets. Millions in road taxes, FEMA, and dedicated funds, and still, the commissioner of DPW can’t manage to maintain, repair, fix, paint, or address our dismal roadways. Yes, a few streets are getting new asphalt. How long before WAPA digs it up to fix some pipes,” a reader wrote.

People are generally quick to call out problems and slow to recognize solved problems. That said, beat-up roads have been an issue for as long as I’ve been driving in the USVI. I don’t think this is a single administration’s problem or a single management team’s problem.

It’s an election year. As far as I can tell, every administration since asphalt was spread in the USVI has had a roadway issue. There’s no modern villain here. I strongly suspect there were some pretty harsh words about the state of the Danish West Indies’ dirt roads. An ancestor might have written the St. Croix Avis in 1844 something like, “How long shall we be plagued by muddy ruts and donkey droppings.”

Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. said Thursday that large stretches of St. Croix’s main roads had been resurfaced in preparation for the influx of cruise tourists. Hopefully, this effort continues off the tourist track.

I am no expert in roadway resurfacing. I suspect you are not, either. But you have some advice.

“Repave all main roads, including Melvin Evans Highway, from start to finish rather than piecemeal as is the case now. Supposedly the money is there. We just need to get it done. North Shore and rainforest roads should be a priority in addition to the highway and downtown Christiansted,” one reader wrote.

Another reader said many roads start falling apart as soon as they are resurfaced. Maybe there’s a geological issue?

A St. John reader wrote in saying the beat-up roads were destroying our cars — at a high price.

“Many of the roads have huge potholes and boulders that can damage vehicles when tourists park. Just ask the rental car companies about the condition of their returned cars for a better understanding.”

It’s more than tourists’ cars being shook apart. The life of a V.I. vehicle is unenviable.

Like all the issues you wrote in about for this series, keeping the roads safe for everyone and their vehicles is complex. If it were easy, it would no longer be an issue. The V.I. is largely rural, mountainous, prone to extreme weather events, and has limited physical and manpower resources.

Unlike many of the other issues you wrote in about, I’m not sure what can be independently done by the average Virgin Islander to address the problem. It’s probably unsafe and/or illegal to go around patching roads yourself. Definitely expensive. Public Works launched a complaints website back in March to collect and process customer feedback.

For context, I drove around Manhattan on Labor Day Weekend, eyeing corroded roads. There are plenty. There’s a short stretch where 46 Street meets Park Avenue that is particularly rough. This little stretch sees more vehicle traffic than all the VI roads put together on any given day. But the United State’s most populace city can’t keep it in shape. I’m not sure what the point of that context is other than to say we’re not alone.

It’s been a great summer hearing from you. I hope you enjoyed this series. Maybe we’ll pick back up in May and see what has you grinning or griping for summer 2023. Until then, stay safe, apply patience, and speak truth with kindness.

If you have missed any of our previous “local tourist” articles, find them in the links below.

Local Tourist Feedback

“Local Tourist” Feedback Received

“Local Tourists” Feel Unheard

Promote Paradise or Pave It Over, ask “Local Tourists”

Adopt Your Home, “Local Tourists”

“Local Tourists” Seek Digital and Cultural Clarity

“Local Tourists” Seek Digital and Cultural Clarity

“Local Tourists” Would Like To Get Off The Road

“Local Tourists” Tire Of Taxi Trouble

It’s Politics and Sargassum for “Local Tourists”

“Local Tourists” Cringe At Crime

“Local Tourists” Burst With V.I. Pride

Surprises from “local tourist” series

Uncork Bottlenecks, Say “Local Tourists”

 

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