Heavy rains during Tropical Storm Philippe broke up the asphalt at the intersection of McNamara Road and Waterfront Drive (Photo: RUSHTON SKINNER).

After the heavy rains of Tropical Storm Phillipe exacerbated the disrepair affecting Virgin Islands roadways, government has issued a tender for 38 miles of reconstruction work that will be funded by a loan, according to Communications and Works Minister Kye Rymer.

“The road infrastructure throughout the territory is not ideal,” Mr. Rymer said on Oct. 31 in the House of Assembly. “There is substantial deterioration of not only the top layer, which is the asphalt layer, but also the base and subbase layers that have been compromised in many areas.”

The government is seeking a contractor to rebuild roadways on Tortola, Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke during a 14-month project, according to tender documents provided by the Ministry of Finance.

“The purpose of this assignment is to address the primary roads throughout the territory,” states the main tender document. “This will include installing new curb and slipper drains, rebuilding the existing subbase and a finished asphalt layer with a design mix that will allow for a lifespan of at minimum 15 years. Therefore, the government of the Virgin Islands is willing to make a substantial investment towards this end to ensure the road network is up to international standards.

”Of the 38 miles of paving to be carried out, the Ministry of Communications and Works expects that 62 percent will need to be completely excavated and disposed, according to the documents.

To fund the repairs, Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley, who is the minister of finance, has committed to securing loan funding, Mr. Rymer said last week in his HOA statement.

Drainage issues

Mr. Rymer also explained that many of the issues affecting roads are caused by improper or undersized drainage pathways.

“Most of the roads were not built with any drainage consideration, which has led to their undermining and deterioration,” he said. “For those roads that have drainage, they are undersized and do not meet the requirements.”

On improperly graded roads, he added, water pools in flat spots and increases the rate of deterioration.

“The continuous rainfall has delayed the [Public Works Department’s] ability to grade the roadways, causing some inconvenience to residents, especially those using unpaved tertiary access roads,” the minister said. “To aid in rapid response and relief, we have also involved each district representative to take ownership of their communities, along with an assigned member of the Public Works team to address any related issues from the storm.”


Often, roadways are also affected when repairing under-ground waterlines destroys the asphalt, according to the minister.

“The Public Works Department conducts asphalt patching, but that is not a long-term fix,” Mr. Rymer said. “What we need is a well-engineered road network with adequate drainage.”

In the ongoing tender, accomodations for unforeseen repairs have been taken into account, according to the minister.

“If short retaining walls are needed to shore up the roadway, the contingencies cover those,” Mr. Rymer said.

But not all roads are expected to require so much work, he said.

“There may be other instances where only milling of the existing asphalt layer is required prior to overlaying with asphalt,” Mr. Rymer said. “Such instances are also included in this tender.”

Remedial work

In conjunction with the 38 miles of new asphalt, the minister also announced remedial work from Fat Hogs Bay to Hodges Creek to be tendered in December, after current sewerage tasks have been completed in the area. In addition, the route from Parham Town to Long Swamp will be addressed anew, according to Mr. Rymer.

“We will issue a tender in November for sewerage works for the installation of gravity and force main lines and installation of manholes and pump stations along the Parham Town to Long Swamp route,” the minister said. “A comprehensive road reconstruction of that area follows.”

Mr. Rymer added that a night-time safety feature will also be included: Reflective pads called “cat eyes” will be installed along centrelines following the repaving, he said.

Anegada not included

Anegada was not included in the tender.

“The plan for Anegada is to pave those roads with concrete only, so there was no need to include Anegada in the asphalt paving tender works,” Mr. Rymer said.

Tender announcement

Three main layers typically make up a properly constructed road: a sub-base, base layer and road surface layer — all of which must be properly graded, compacted and stabilised.

According to an Oct. 26 press release announcing the tender, government expects the roads to be constructed in “conformity with an internationally acceptable standard.”

The planned works include preparing the “road base to receive new asphalt paving;” facilitating works for “all utility manholes;” ensuring that drainage structures and sidewalks “achieve an acceptable and level finished pavement;” and “testing of aggregate and asphalt design mix prior to asphalt paving, amongst other things,” the release explains.

A separate notice to tenderers states that roads are to be paved according to “standard traffic management and health and safety practices.”

Neither document defines the “standard” in question.

Submission deadline

According to the tender documents, all tenders must be submitted by 10 a.m. on Dec. 19 to the tender box at the Ministry of Finance Procurement Unit at the second floor of RFG Place in Road Town.