Christiansted Bypass almost done

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ST. CROIX - It's almost ready.

After years of construction, the long-anticipated Christiansted Bypass is nearing completion.

"We'll be there pretty soon. We're only less than a month from completing the final work," said Wystan Benjamin, the federal highway program manager for the Public Works Department.

Once the work is finished and after a final inspection process, Public Works will come up with a punch list, the contractor will finish any corrective work and the bypass can open to traffic, Benjamin said.

It could conceivably open in the final weeks of December or, at the latest, in January, he said.

"It just depends on what the final inspection entails," he said.

The 1.2-mile bypass weaves through the green hills overlooking Christiansted town and the harbor and will provide motorists with a quicker alternative to the sometimes clogged, narrow arteries through town.

Construction on the Christiansted Bypass started in the spring of 2007, although the project originally was designed in 1975. The four-phase project has used $36.7 million in federal money to this point, Benjamin said.

Much of the work has been where motorists and passers-by did not necessarily see what was being done.

In recent weeks, though, the work on the project has become highly visible to passing motorists, with the roadway looking complete and workers installing street lights and the poles for traffic lights at the east and west intersections. Pedestrians have been enjoying the walk - and a scenic overlook - for some time now.

Currently, much of the work is concentrated at the east end of the bypass in Mount Welcome.

"We ran into a little stump where we're going to need to widen a little more," Benjamin said.

The intersection needed just a little more space in the area of the Canegata ballpark and the property just to its west, Benjamin said.

"On paper it looks good, but when they went to lay it out at the intersection, it didn't fit," he said. "We had to acquire a little more right of way."

Some utility poles in the area, that are used by the V.I. Water and Power Authority and Innovative, will have to be moved because of the extra right-of-way, he said.

"We've been in communication with both utilities," he said. "The procedure is, if we have utility poles in the way, what we do is execute a utility agreement with them. We pay for the relocation."

The agreement has to be executed, and Benjamin said he hopes that both utilities will be out soon to do the work.

Some of the final steps in completing the project include the widening of the intersection at Mount Welcome, putting in turn lanes to get onto the bypass and installing traffic signals and lighting, he said.

"The target date was the end of November, but with the slight delay on the relocation of WAPA and Innovative, it's probably going to be more like the third week of December," Benjamin said.

- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or e-mail

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