April 3, 2006 – After decades of wishful thinking and nearly three years of construction, Enighed Pond commercial port on St. John is set to open April 10.
The official opening ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. April 21.
Efforts to learn how the public will access and exit the area and how vehicles will line up waiting for the barge were unsuccessful.
Engineer Dale Gregory did not have that information.
"The 10th will be an attempt to debug it," he said, noting that the Marine Division had a plan.
Port Authority spokesman Carol Henneman did not return phone calls requesting this information.
Gregory said he anticipates traffic problems because the barges that transport vehicles between St. Thomas and St. John don't all share tickets. Vehicles taking Boyson barges must have Boyson tickets. Those using Love City Car Ferries, which was until recently called Republic Barge Service, and Global Marine share tickets.
Gregory said that people lining up with the wrong ticket in their hands will have to pull out of line, which he anticipates will cause traffic flow problems.
St. John resident Norm Gledhill is skeptical that the new port will relieve St. John's traffic problems as many have hoped.
"You think there were traffic jams in Cruz Bay before ," he said, inferring that they're going to get worse.
He suggested that there just isn't room on the Port Authority property for vehicles to line up, and that the area will experience the same confusion that plagues the Creek when barges arrive and before they depart. At that location, drivers hustle for spaces on the barge, often cutting off other drivers to get the coveted space. And traffic often snarls along the road and drivers try to get in and out of the Creek bulkhead.
The Enighed Pond commercial port project has been on the books since 1971. At the official groundbreaking on June 13, 2004, officials expected construction to be done by July 2004.
The project suffered several problems. A big rock that needs moving to totally clear the channel remains because the Port Authority is still waiting for the permit from Army Corps of Engineers.
"We put an isolated danger buoy on top of the rock," Gregory said Monday. "We'll have there till we remove the rock."
He said that the channel is wide enough for ships to navigate safely even with the rock.
He said the Port Authority still has to deal with the dredged material now sitting inside a 10- to 14-foot dike. Gregory said some of it was spread around, but the agency still has to decide how to deal with the rest of it.
"It's not settling as fast as we had hoped," he said.
He said the project went "pretty well," but neighbors suffered in the spring of 2004 when crews started bringing up the muck on the pond's bottom. Its putrid odor permeated the neighborhood until the Port Authority sprayed deodorant around.
"The smell was a serious challenge," he said.
He said that the project cost about $14 million and that the Port Authority plans to spend the $2 million left in the $16 million bond issue in paving a trailer area and erecting a small building to be used by the dock master.
A joint partnership between the St. Thomas firm of Custom Builders and the Pennsylvania-based American Bridge Co. won the bid to build the Enighed Pond commercial port.
Custom Builders handled the land side of the project, with American Bridge doing the marine work.
Gregory said the Creek area in Cruz Bay currently used by commercial vessels will be used by charter boats and other similar vessels. He said the Port Authority will develop a master plan for the Creek.
He said ferries will continue to use the ferry dock on the Cruz Bay waterfront.
Gledhill said he's urged the Port Authority to name the Enighed Pond commercial port after the late Sen. Theovald Moorehead because he spearheaded efforts to get the project under way.
"He's the one who first did the plans," Gledhill said.
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