The cost of extending the Esterley Tibbetts Highway a little more than two miles from the Hyatt Regency to Raleigh Quay will cost roughly $12 million, a National Road Authority representative told the Chamber of Commerce Luncheon attendees at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman on Wednesday.
The Esterley Tibbetts Highway extension is only one of six priority projects approved for development by the NRA.
‘These projects will cost in excess of $100 million spread over the next few years,’ said Colford Scott, the NRA’s Chief Executive.
That cost does not include land acquisition, Mr. Scott said.
In addition to the Esterley Tibbetts Highway Extension, other approved projects include the ongoing reconstruction of the Elgin Avenue/Thomas Russell Way Roundabout; the completion of the five-lane highway connection between the Esterley Tibbetts and Linford Pierson Highways from the Tortuga Roundabout to the Butterfield Roundabout; the development of a 15-mile central highway to East End, which includes a Prospect bypass road and a Spotts-Newlands bypass road; the extension of the Linford Pierson Highway from Bobby Thompson way to Walkers Road, and; the resurfacing of the eastern roads from East End to Colliers.
Speaking specifically about the Esterley Tibbetts Highway extension, which commenced earlier this month, the NRA’s assistant director Transportation & Planning. Denis Thibeault said the NRA has found an area of about 1,000 to 1,200 feet that has peat depths in excess of 20 feet near Canal Point.
Some smaller areas in that stretch have peat depths as much as 35 feet, Mr. Thibeault said.
The already completed section of the Esterley Tibbetts only had peat to the depths of four to six feet, Mr. Thibeault said.
Historically, when building roads through wetlands in Cayman, peat has been removed first and then replaced with aggregate.
However, the depths of the peat near Canal Point have the NRA looking at alternative methods of construction through wetlands.
While bridges would be more expensive, Mr. Thibeault said the use of a permeable geotextile membrane – which would placed on top of the peat and below the road foundation, -would be somewhat less expensive.
Geotextiles are commonly used in building roads through wetlands in Louisiana and Florida.
There is a time trade-off of six to nine months, however, because the geotextile process requires settling time, Mr. Thibeault said.
Government has said it wants the Esterley Tibbetts Highway extension drivable by the end of 2006.
While much of the approved road works are scheduled for this year or next year, the completion of the highway to East End could talk longer.
‘It might not be in our lifetime, but for future generations,’ Mr. Thibeault said, noting that it was important to put the plans down on paper now.
As it stands, the highway to East End would only touch one building – Red Bay Plaza.
In order to pay for all the approved road works, road user fees would probably have to be implemented, Mr. Thibeault said.
Mr. Scott agreed.
‘The Road Fund is inadequate to service the transportation needs that you, the users, have placed on this country,’ he said. ‘Either the Road Fund is increased or General Revenue is increased and Government supplements the Roads Funds.’
Road user fees could take several forms, including tolls.
‘But I think tolls would be fairly expensive to collect in Cayman,’ Mr. Scott said.
Instead, Mr. Scott said he envisioned an additional gasoline fee, which would charge road users based on the amount of gasoline they consumed.
Currently, the Road Fund gets its revenue from four sources: from 20 per cent of the duty charged on gasoline imports; from 16.67 per cent of the duty charged on diesel fuel, excluding that used for electricity generation; from 100 per cent of the fees paid with respect to the infrastructure fund; and from 80 per cent of the fees paid for the registration of motor vehicles.