Distressed residents of Bordeaux Mountain have been told by the head of the Public Works Department that they can get some relief from worries about their broken-down road if their neighbors downhill are willing to give up their own scheduled road repairs for a while.
However, sentiments expressed by those residents of the Coral Bay area indicate that they are not willing to go along with such an idea.
At a Senate committee hearing Wednesday, Jan. 12, Commissioner Harold F. Thompson Jr. told lawmakers he has federal funds and an anticipated start date for repairs to South Shore Road (Route 107), which runs from Coral Bay to Lameshur Bay. He said he would be willing to divert the funds to make repairs to Bordeaux Mountain Road (Route 108) "if it is the will of the St. John people."
More than half a dozen Bordeaux residents appeared at the hearing of the Government Operations Committee chaired by Sen. Gregory Bennerson in the Cruz Bay Legislative Conference Room. They testified that increased housing construction in their area has taken a heavy toll on their only road.
Because "population on Bordeaux has increased and construction has also increased," resident Amy Trayser said, the federally designated, but unpaved, road is collapsing in spots, leaving stretches impassable to two lanes of traffic. "The danger of the road is well beyond potholes," she said.
Because of the road conditions, both Trayser and public schoolteacher Patricia Mortenson said, emergency service vehicles cannot get through. "My son has medical problems," Mortenson told the committee. "He has a seizure condition that is life-threatening. I also have a neighbor who is a senior citizen who is dependent on me for a ride twice a week because there is no senior citizen transportation that will go into Bordeaux."
Trayser cited two recent cases of ambulances not being able to respond to the scene of accidents and said Deputy Fire Chief Brian Chapman had told her there could be problems responding to fire emergencies in the area.
Later, Trayser told the Source she realizes that the coastal South Shore Road that runs below Bordeaux has numerous problems, but conditions in the mountaintop community are at the critical stage. While "we know about the condition of other roads on St. John," she said, "I think it is a sad state of affairs when they will repave a safe, existing road and ignore deplorable and dangerous conditions."
It is unlikely that Coral Bay residents would yield priority to Public Works for repairing the two roads. To regular users of Route 107, which runs along the coast of Coral Bay from Emmaus Moravian Church to the entrance to Lamshur Bay, conditions there often are not safe. Portions of the road near Shipwreck Landing wash out in heavy rains. One section gave way to tidal surges in 1995 during Hurricane Marilyn. In 1998, a portion of the southbound lane collapsed and had to be replaced, suspending Vitran bus service for two weeks.
Thompson told the Senate committee that designs are completed for repairs to Route 107. He and other Public Works officials met last year with residents of Coral Bay and representatives of the Federal Highway Administration to go over the plans to widen and repave that road and install culverts.
According to Public Works Deputy Commissioner Ira Wade, the FHA has earmarked a little over $1 million for first-phase waterways improvements along South Shore Road. He said this work will entail the installation of culverts and mitigation of mudslides and flooding caused by runoff from Bordeaux Mountain. A second phase, budgeted at $1.5 million, will involve resurfacing and repaving of Route 107, he said.
After hearing the testimony Wednesday, Thompson said he would be willing to divert some of the FHA funds to address Bordeaux Road problems. However, sentiments expressed at the meeting indicated many in attendance were against the idea.
St. John administrator Julian Harley said he was leery of short-changing one project to half-start another. He said he had driven along Bordeaux Road "around Christmas time and again at the beginning of the year" and found it "very bad, but it's wet."
Harley said he then told Wade "to wait until it's dry and put some dirt on it and smooth it off, and then fix the road the right way."
The administrator is among those arguing that, as bad as the Bordeaux road is, there is a serious need for flood control along the coastal road. On Friday he told the Source that at a recent meeting he attended, Public Works officials said they would like to begin with the roadside work on Route 107 by April. "I'd like to see them start the culverts, because the culverts are bad," he said.


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