Public Works vows to repair high-traffic roads within weeks


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ST. THOMAS - Following two weeks of heavy rain across the territory that worsened roads already marred by potholes and other imperfections, Gov. John deJongh Jr. met Wednesday with officials from the Public Works Department to set priorities to repair the roads most in need in the next few weeks.

"We want the public to know that the Virgin Islands Government is cognizant of the poor condition of many of the roadways, and is sensitive to the impact the damaged roads have on residents and visitors," deJongh said in a prepared statement Government House issued Wednesday. "Safety is the prime consideration in adequately fixing the roads, but we also understand the unusual wear and tear being inflicted on vehicles from the damaged streets and highways."

Pubic Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls said his department has identified roads on both islands that are the top of the list to be fixed.

On St. Thomas, Brookman Road, Veterans Drive, Rhymer Highway and Harwood Highway all will be repaired, Smalls said.

On St. Croix, Queen Mary Road, Midland Road and Road 709 will be repaired as well.

"It's been slowing down traffic," said Melvin Anthony, who works near Brookman Road, one of the roads on St. Thomas needing repair. "We can't escape the rain, so we got to work with it."

Because the roads already are long overdue for maintenance, what many of them need is not repairs, Smalls said. They need reconstruction, he said.

"A newly constructed road should last 15 years," Smalls said.

In other words, the 800 miles of roads in the territory should be reconstructed every 15 years.

How often are they reconstructed?

"Not often," Smalls said.

Instead, the roads are repaired over and over with patches of asphalt. However, those repairs are undermined by the rain and the wear of vehicles.

The Public Works Department has an overall budget of about $18.5 million annually, less than 10 percent of which goes toward road repairs.

Road reconstruction in the territory is funded by federal allocations from the Federal Highway Administration, Smalls said.

In years past, the territory received about $20 million annually to reconstruct roads, though that has dwindled to about $15 million since the federal cuts last year, according to Smalls.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.

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