Construction begins to resurface Christiansted Boardwalk
Published: October 11, 2013
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ST. CROIX - The Christiansted Boardwalk hugs the edge of most of the Christiansted Harbor, with blue waters lapping against its underbelly on one side and the hustle of busy restaurants and shops on the other side as it stretches from east to west in the downtown area.
Construction recently began to resurface the downtown locale - which anchors tourism businesses, retail shops and bars, clubs and restaurants - that has been falling into a state of dilapidation.
V.I. Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls said the restoration project will entail a full replacement of all of the surface pieces of the existing boardwalk, which extends from the Seaborne Airlines terminal on its western end to the King Christian Hotel on its eastern end.
The project is necessary because of the wear and tear and battering of the boardwalk by the salt water compounded by the impact from recent storms that have passed through the territory, Smalls said.
There are some areas where the wooden planks are warped, some are rotted and others are broken. Some portions of the boardwalk have been so badly deteriorated that plywood patches have been laid to prevent pedestrians from falling through to the water.
"The sun and rain and salt water has had a tremendous impact as expected, but a lot of the battering came from storms, and FEMA has given some assistance with that," Smalls said.
He said the contract for the project was awarded to Benton Construction and work began last month and is expected to last at least until the end of next month.
"What we have is a 180-day project on the contract, but I suspect that it will be done by the end of November and certainly before Christmas time," Smalls said. "Barring any unforeseen occurrence, I expect everything to continue moving forward and on schedule."
Smalls said the contractor has been working on an expedited schedule to ensure that the work is done well and completed on time, and at the rate the project is moving, he expects it to be finished long before its projected deadline of early next spring.
Funding for the $900,000 resurfacing project has come in part from $400,000 from Federal Emergency Management Agency funds as a result of the hurricane damage that the boardwalk sustained in recent years. That will be supplemented with a $1 million grant from the Interior Department that will complete the project and help fund additional projects that have not yet been determined.
Prior to the start of the resurfacing project, Smalls said an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant was used to replace existing light fixtures with solar units, which created a safer environment along the boardwalk at night.
The restaurant owners and retailers in the boardwalk area who will be affected by the construction and the ultimate improvement to the area were briefed with an overview of the project last month, and Smalls said he is committed to continue to engage the merchants as the project moves forward.
"We engaged everyone affected before we started, and we plan to keep them up to speed with any changes in the schedule or anything else," he said. "They also know that if they have any issues, they can contact us."
Jack Pickel, president of the Christiansted Restaurant and Retail Association, said he and his membership are thrilled that the project has finally started.
"We are very excited, and we can see that the contractor is really working to get it done," he said. "So we should be ready for the Jump Up on Nov. 29."
Safety was a big concern about wanting to get the projects done, and the resurfacing and lighting projects address those things, Pickel said.
"We are looking forward to seeing it done and realize that some of us may be inconvenienced as they work near us, but it will be a great trade-off," he said.
While most of the businesses on the boardwalk have access from King Street, Smalls said the project has started on the western end of the waterfront area near Seaborne and will make its way eastward in small segments, so that the construction work does not disrupt any area for more time than is needed.
When it is finished, Smalls expects that everyone who uses the boardwalk will enjoy the enhancements, he said.
The concept of building a boardwalk first was introduced in the 1980s as part of a major urban renewal project. Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and Hurricane Marilyn in 1995 destroyed it, and it was rebuilt in 1999 running from the King Cross Street access east to where it currently ends. The project was redone three years later after rusted nails resulted in planks coming loose, leaving a gaping hole on the boardwalk.
In September 2004 the project added 394 feet to the west end of the boardwalk, bringing it to the Seaborne Airlines terminal.
The remainder of Phase II, which had been planned to extend about 800 feet from the eastern side of Fort Christiansvaern to Gallows Bay, was expected to start in 2006 but had to be put on hold following a number of delays.
Smalls said the portion of the project to wrap the boardwalk around to Gallows Bay is still on hold, and recent discussions with potential developers in that area would have to be revisited before it is known how the expansion would work.
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email email@example.com.