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Officials Get an Earful On Bypass Construction

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March 1, 2008 — St. Croix residents living near the Christiansted bypass construction site said at a town hall meeting Saturday they were fed up with the dust, noise, blasting and poor road conditions and were concerned for their health.
"This was very poorly planned, and we suffer because of the hurry to get the job done," said Jose Martinez, a retired engineer who lives in the area.
Martinez said he is home all day enduring constant noise from heavy equipment and dust blowing indoors.
"There should have been a construction road built ahead so they don't have to use residential roads," said his wife, Michell Thurland-Martinez.
Almost 50 citizens and government officials filled the Florence Williams Library second-floor conference room.
St. Croix Administrator Pedro "Pete" Encarnacion said he called for the town hall meeting, because his office has recently been receiving many such complaints regarding the bypass.
However, after Encarnacion's opening remarks it was Department of Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls and Assistant Commissioner Roberto Cintron who were in the hot seats.
Most of the residents voiced support for the project, but were dismayed how it was being carried out and how local residents were being treated by the construction workers.
Smalls said his department would address the concerns of the residents in order to find solutions, wherever possible.
He added that the project was proceeding on schedule, he wanted to stick to that schedule, and, no matter what he did, there would be dust at the site. He said, "There will never be zero dust."
But it did not seem that "zero dust" is what the residents were looking for – just reductions.
Smalls said the construction site was often watered down. But several residents insisted they had never seen a truck watering down the site.
One resident said he asked a construction worker to water down a pile of dirt he was moving and the worker just ignored his plea. Another suggested that some barriers be put in certain areas to catch the dust and rocks.
Shirley Simon Harvey said she had a huge boulder roll down into her yard. "Fortunately it didn't cause much damage," Harvey said.
One resident complained that engineers from the construction company would show up unannounced, tell owners that they were in a blasting zone and take photos of their houses. Another resident complained that though she could feel blasts, no one ever came and took a photo of her house. Another resident complained of blasts at 9 p.m.
Smalls said a person could feel a blast a long way from where it originates and doesn't necessarily have to be in the notification zone. And he denied the construction company was doing any night blasting. "If you are hearing blasts at night, something else is going on," he said.
Another resident complained that the trucks were carrying dirt without covers over their load. Smalls agreed that federal guidelines stated that the trucks be covered.
"We recognize there are a number of challenges to construction," said John Paul David, construction manager from Public Works. "We are here to listen to concerns and mitigate those concerns."
David said they are on schedule for the completion of phase two in July. The project was broken into three phases.
The bypass, in the planning stages since 1975, is aimed at relieving traffic congestion in downtown Christiansted. The bypass will begin at the existing Contentment Road and go east to a terminus at the intersection of Hospital Street, East End Road and Mt. Welcome Road.
Most of the residents at the meeting were from Hospital, Little Hospital, King Cross, Queen Cross, and New Streets on the eastern edge of Christiansted.
Smalls said there would be another town meeting in a month so he could report to residents how issues were resolved. That wasn't soon enough for residents, though, who asked for another meeting in two weeks.
"We are happy about the bypass, but we aren't happy with the way the construction is being done," John Canegata said.
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