Ribbon cutting and speeches mark official opening of bypass

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ST. CROIX - With a few speeches and the snip of a ribbon, officials on Thursday dedicated the Christiansted bypass.

"After 37 years, we can finally say, 'We did it. Mission accomplished,' " said V.I. Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls.

The bypass was closed to traffic for the dedication ceremony, which was held on the scenic overlook Thursday.

Opened by governor's order almost two weeks ago to ease intense congestion in Christiansted created by the V.I. Water and Power Authority's project to bury power lines in town, the 1.2-mile bypass is 99 percent complete, with a punch list and some minor work outstanding, according to information provided at Thursday's ceremony.

The project has been on the drawing board since the 1970s. A highway study in 1972 first identified the need for the bypass, and an initial contract was entered in 1975 for an engineering study and environmental assessment for a bypass in the hills south of Christiansted.

Construction on the federally funded project actually began in 2007 and was divided into phases, with total expenditures to date of $37,221,472.49.

Smalls said that at this point, the bypass is the largest completed Federal Highway Administration-funded project in the territory.

At the ceremony, officials spoke of the bypass strengthening local infrastructure, offering stunning views, and benefitting everyone.

They also said it will spare historical structures in Christiansted by providing a route around town for heavy trucks and equipment.

Gov. John deJongh Jr. spoke of ideas and dreams becoming reality.

He said that the bypass was not the work of one person - or even one administration. He thanked those who were involved through the years, and those who were patient and understanding while construction was going on.

Other officials who spoke at the ceremony included Carlos Machado, assistant administrator for the Federal Highway Administrations's Puerto Rico/Virgin Islands Division; Senate President Shawn-Michael Malone, Lt. Gov. Gregory Francis, and St. Croix Administrator Dodson James.

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

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