In the 1960s there was one street in Road Town: Main Street, which had two lanes. Eventually, traffic was diverted to Wickhams Cay and the government of the day permitted parking on one side of Main Street to facilitate the residents who lived in apartments adjacent to it. However, over the years the traffic has increased significantly, with new vehicles added every year leading to traffic congestion and public inconveniences.
There have been at least two studies, costing thousands of dollars, on the Road Town traffic over the last 30 years. All studies concluded the following:
- the roundabout was the major traffic problem;
- upper parking decks needed to be built urgently; and
- the Joes Hill ghut needed to be repaired urgently.
Flow of traffic
Traffic-flow studies, such as counting vehicles at different points in town between 7 and 9 a.m., also have been carried out.
The data obtained from these studies indicated that the number of vehicles going to the roundabout was the same as those leaving. Most of the traffic coming into the roundabout came from the eastern end of the island, suggesting that the population is greater in the east.
It was also suggested that widening the roundabout similar to some in Barbados should be done, but there was no space to do so. Removing the roundabout and replacing it with lights where three lanes could be moving simultaneously was also proposed, but this solution was rejected by political leaders who said the roundabout was a historical landmark and should not be removed.
Next, it was suggested to have traffic from the east not going to the roundabout but through a bypass road by customs, but this idea was abandoned as well.
Transportation, Works and Utilities Minister Kye Rhymer and his team are to be congratulated for tackling this outstanding Road Town traffic problem. Presently, traffic is approximately 30 percent of the normal flow, but currently it is flowing smoothly. The challenge will be when traffic returns to normal and the city again comes to life with:
- cruise ships in the port and taxis busy moving passengers;
- an increase in vehicle rentals and motorcycle riders;
- civil servants returning to work at the Ralph T. O’Neal Administration Building;
- schools and day care centres in the Fourth and Fifth districts re-opening; and
- people from various businesses returning to work.
I trust that Mr. Rymer’s changes will prevail.
Joes Hill drainage
The Joes Hill road drainage is incapable of dealing effectively with the water flowing through it. Thus, when it rains heavily the drainage overflows and floods Crabbe Lot and the surrounding areas. The water rushes down Main Street, creating the Upper Main Street Lake (opposite A and L Inn), which exits by Fonseca Corner.
The fire brigade has had to be called to rescue people stranded in their cars with water up to the steering wheel. Car windows have had to be broken and people pulled out of their cars. Wreckers had been called to the rescue as well. Many businesses in the area have been constantly affected by the heavy flooding in the Main Street and Flemming Street area and have sustained severe financial losses as a result.
After each flood or hurricane, there have been promises to fix this problem, but neither the National Democratic Party-led nor the Virgin Islands Party-led governments over 30 years have done anything about it. Incidentally, consultants advised that Main Street traffic should remain as is (traffic flowing upwards) because driving with flowing water is more dangerous that driving against it.
Mr. Moses, now deceased, who lived close to the Joes Hill ghut, told a British engineer who worked for the Public Works Department not to pave the ghut. Mr. Moses was ignored on the assumption that he was not an engineer. Mr. Moses stated that when water runs through the ghut it brings with it stones, trees and other debris. If the ghut is paved, the water runs faster until it encounters some resistance, at which point the debris is deposited and the ghut overflows.
The Joes Hill ghut, however, was paved anyway, and just as Mr. Moses had stated, it changed the dynamics of the water flow, much to the demise of Road Town.
As we continue to make changes with the hope of improving Road Town’s growth and development, I hope that we value and respect the wisdom of our elders in making future decisions.