Christiansted bypass to open today


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ST. CROIX - In a surprise move, the governor on Friday ordered the long-awaited Christiansted bypass to be opened for traffic, starting this morning, to ease worsening congestion in town.

"I've asked that the bypass roadway be opened on Saturday morning to ease the movement of traffic through downtown Christiansted and alleviate the intense congestion that has frustrated motorists since construction began on the current WAPA project," Gov. John deJongh Jr. said in a statement Government House released Friday afternoon.

The bypass is to be opened to vehicular traffic by 8 a.m. today.

Work on the V.I. Water and Power Authority's project to bury power lines in Christiansted has moved to one of the major arteries through town, King Street. Traffic coming into town from the west is being diverted on King Street at Sunday Market Square, also known as Times Square.

"It will be opening. We're all cognizant of the traffic issues in downtown Christiansted," V.I. Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls said of the bypass.

Although officials had anticipated opening the roadway with a formal dedication later this month, the need for some relief of traffic snarls in town became pressing.

Smalls said that the Governor's Office and the different agencies involved consulted and decided "it would be in the best interest to do a soft opening in preparation for the official opening."

Smalls urged motorists to use "extreme caution" as they become accustomed to the new roadway. There are three new traffic lights, including two on existing roadways at each end of the bypass and one on the new roadway itself.

Officials plan to start using flashing lights on the signals, before they are fully activated in a few days.

"Please adhere to all traffic control devices, adhere to the speed limit and drive safely," Smalls said.

The Government House statement said that during the next few days, Smalls will decide whether to bring in police officers to man the intersections during rush hours.

Smalls said that Public Works and the contractor are still in the process of working out punch list items, but that the bypass road "is in a condition that I can allow the traffic to flow through."

The Government House statement quotes deJongh saying:

"While we will gather later this month to formally dedicate the Bypass project, whose construction has pumped some $30 million into the local economy and marks completion of a major roadway project that has been on the drawing board since the 1970s, I recognize the urgent need to open the roadway as early as tomorrow to bring about much needed relief to motorists who traverse the downtown Christiansted area each day."

- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email jblackburn@dailynews.vi.

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