Heavy Easter holiday traffic along West Bay Road was compounded by the closure of a section of Esterley Tibbetts Highway over the weekend, riling tourists and residents who had to sit through hours-long traffic jams.
The section of road was closed from early Friday morning to allow for electrical and water lines to be laid under the road to the Camana Bay development. The road was reopened Monday afternoon.
Some residents in West Bay reported it taking more than two hours to get to George Town. West Bay Legislative Assembly member Cline Glidden said he received many complaints about the traffic for his West Bay constituents.
Mr. Glidden also experienced the traffic problem first hand on Saturday.
‘I left my house to go to the doctor (in George Town) at 10.30 (am) and it took two hours to get there,’ he said. ‘It was a frustrating waste of time.’
Mr. Glidden’s wife Gloria also made the trip and said tourists were upset by the nearly standstill traffic.
‘I saw some tourists get out of their jeep and start walking,’ she said, adding that she spoke with the tourists after they parked at the Cayman Falls plaza.
‘They said they were only on the island for the long weekend and they were spending the whole day in traffic,’ she said.
Barbara Levy, owner of Book Nook, said she knew of a tourist who was affected in another way.
‘A man told me it took him 3-1/2 hours to get from Harbour Heights to the airport,’ she said. ‘When he got there, he was told he couldn’t get on the flight.’
Mrs. Levy said the man told her 20 other people did not make the flight because of traffic.
‘I’m not complaining about this for myself,’ she said. ‘My business might have been affected, I don’t know, but I was busy anyway.
‘But this country needs tourism. You don’t (close the road) on a weekend like that when you have tourists here. It’s the second busiest weekend of the year after Christmas. Do it in the summer.’
Besides it being a busy time for tourists, there are also a lot of residents on the roads during the Easter holiday, Mrs. Glidden said.
‘Everyone is going to the beach, or going to barbecues or going to see family,’ she said. ‘Why would they pick that weekend (to close the road)? It makes no sense. They just made misery,’ she said.
Mr. Glidden also questioned the timing of the road closure.
‘They couldn’t have picked a worse time to do it,’ he said.
‘Someone had to give (the Camana Bay developers) permission to do it. Whoever did that made a mistake, and needs to be questioned about it.’
The Camana Bay developers said the works on the road entailed laying the major electrical duct bank and chilled water pipes to the project’s Town Centre.
‘The work was especially sensitive as the new utilities had to be placed underneath the existing water main and electrical feeds that run towards West Bay,’ a representative for Camana Bay said in a written response. ‘The work had to be done across both lanes at one time to ensure that there were no conflicts with the existing
The decision to close the road during the holiday was made on 28 March.
‘The decision to do the work over the Easter weekend was discussed with the relevant authorities and it was agreed that the holiday weekend would be the best time due to known traffic patterns,’ the Camana Bay spokesperson said.
‘Typically the traffic is less on holiday weekends, and it was agreed that closing the road over the weekend would potentially have the least overall impact.’
The public, however, seemed to be caught unaware of the road closure.
The Royal Cayman Islands Police did send out a notice of the road closure on 5 April, and again on 11 April, said RCIPS Public Relations Officer Deborah Denis.
‘Although the RCIPS did take measures to notify the public, it was obviously not as well publicised as we would have liked,’ she said.
‘However, lessons can certainly be learned from this, and communication of future road closures can be looked at.’
While the traffic problem was compounded by the closure of the section of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway, there would likely have still been traffic problems had it not been closed.
Traffic tie-ups were reported from as early as last Thursday afternoon – before the road closure – prompting the RCIPS to issue a press release, which stated that it appeared the sheer volume of traffic was causing the hold-ups.