Home News Local news Frenchtown Residents Sound Off Over Sign Controversy

Frenchtown Residents Sound Off Over Sign Controversy

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July 6, 2005 — Acting Public Works Commissioner George Phillips and his staff were met with a crowd of angry residents at a Wednesday night meeting at the Frenchtown Community Center. The purpose of the meeting was to address concerns about a No Right Turn sign installed at the intersection of Veterans Drive and Altona.
The sign, first put up in early June, has been a constant cause of controversy for residents—not only are Frenchtown businesses being disrupted and inconvenienced by new traffic congestion, but residents were not consulted when the sign was first erected. Phillips said that he had to use DPW authority in order to address increasing traffic flow concerns in the area.
The distress of the Frenchtown community has also been recently exacerbated by a DPW/Public Safety plan to re-route traffic through the entire Frenchtown area—while cars currently move from north to south from the intersection, the proposal calls for a south-to-north traffic flow.
"This idea is ridiculous," Charlie Magras, owner of La Belle Creole, said at the meeting. "That entrance has been there for at least sixty years … somebody is making a terrible mistake. Magras added that there are at least five other areas in St. Thomas without turning lanes causing traffic problems.
"I don’t see those being fixed," Magras said, spurring applause from other citizens present.
Residents specifically spoke out against the reversal of traffic flow on Demarara Road, a one-way street that has already caused problems due to a blind turn at its end.
"There are accidents almost everyday as it is," Yvonne Quetel, a local EMT said. "To reverse the traffic now would certainly be asking for death."
Quetel and other residents also discussed the historical planning of the neighborhood, where driveways to houses are structured to accommodate a north-to-south flow.
"If you change the direction, then a car coming out of a driveway will not be able to see traffic coming in," one woman said. "This will cause major safety issues, most especially for children playing or going to school in the area."
Quetel added that in the case of an accident, an ambulance would have trouble getting into Frenchtown and back out to the hospital. "The ambulance is going to have to fight to get a patient to the care that they need," Quetel said.
Phillips said that he understood these issues but added that he did not authorize the re-routing of traffic and would take all comments back to the Department of Public Safety for review. VIPD Commissioner Elton Lewis was not present at the meeting.
"I did authorize the No Right Turn sign … I felt that I was doing what was in the best interest of the community," Phillips said. "However, since residents were not informed of this decision before it was made, Public Safety has taken down the sign until the public is fully educated on its purpose," Phillips added.
As a result, the permanent installation of the No Right Turn sign on July 11 has been postponed until Public Safety has finished consulting with residents—a meeting will be held on July 26 at the Frenchtown Community Center to jumpstart the process.
"In the meantime, DPW will also continue to review the situation," Phillips said, adding that the Frenchtown project was one of many to be conducted in the downtown Charlotte Amalie area.
To help Phillips in the decision-making process, Magras proposed an alternative solution, which met with thunderous applause—the installation of a traffic light at the same intersection, with a turn lane installed so that traffic is not obstructed.
"There is a cement island at the turn next to Davis Funeral Home," Magras said. "It is 78 feet long and five inches wide … it can be torn down and used to build a turn lane."
Another solution proposed was the reconstruction of the entire highway. "Veterans Drive is poorly constructed," one resident said. "There are only two lanes of traffic—neither is dedicated, and one is always tied up. Public Works shouldn’t be focused on changing the historical situation of Frenchtown … it should start with looking at the highway."
While Phillips said that he and other officials involved in the process would consider all solutions and re-evaluate all measures, residents still did not leave happy and gathered outside the Community Center to continue their own conversations on the matter. Phillips would not take questions from the press after the meeting concluded.
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