Bridge delays highway opening

The Esterley Tibbetts Highway extension from the Hyatt Regency Hotel to the Courtyard Marriott Hotel will not be completed by 30 June as scheduled because of a delay in constructing a bridge over the canal at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.

Responding to a question from West Bay MLA Rolston Anglin, Minister of Works Arden McLean told the Finance Committee the road would be ready by 31 July.

‘I have no excuses to make to the country, but we’ll only be delayed one month,’ he said. ‘I had to make the decision in the interest of safety to the public.’

Mr. McLean said the 22 May update letter from the National Roads Authority concerning the project contained some good news and some bad news.

The good news was that by 30 June, works that would be completed on the road included two lanes from the Hyatt to Palm Heights, four lanes from Palm Heights to the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, four lanes from the Ritz-Carlton to the Courtyard Marriott, and the reconfiguration of the Governor’s Harbour roundabout.

The bad news was that the bridge, which will be the first road bridge in the Cayman Islands, will not be completed on time.

Mr. McLean did not hide the fact that he was not happy with the delay.

‘I’m not convinced this delay could not have been avoided,’ he said. ‘I’m not convinced of that, but I believe everyone deserves a second chance.’

Mr. McLean said he had recently written to Ritz-Carlton developer Michael Ryan about the matter.

According to an agreement with Mr. Ryan’s company, the Ritz development company is required to build the bridge and then turn it over to the Government, Mr. McLean said.

He explained that Mr. Ryan had proposed a temporary bridge measure to allow the opening of the road by 30 June.

‘We weren’t comfortable with that,’ he said, explaining that after the Ministry of Works and National Roads Authority reviewed safety concerns about the temporary bridge, they decided against the approach.

Giving some details about the bridge, Mr. McLean said it would be constructed of cement and rise 13 feet about the ground. In addition to having boat traffic underneath, there will also be path for golf carts.

The bridge engineer was scheduled to arrive on the island yesterday, Mr. McLean said, and the entire bridge design package was scheduled to be received this week.

Mr. McLean said that he had rejected a proposal from Mr. Ryan to have the bridge completed by the end of August.

Although the 31 July deadline is aggressive, Mr. McLean said it could be completed by then. He noted that the cement used in the bridge would require 28 days in order to cure enough to be driven on.

‘But it can be done,’ he said. ‘I would add that it better be done.’

Answering a question from North Side MLA Edna Moyle, Mr. McLean said he did not foresee much in the way of maintenance expense on the bridge in the near future.

‘One would hope that the maintenance on the bridge would be minimal for the next 25 years unless there’s an accident,’ he said. ‘It’s just a concrete bridge.’

Mr. McLean praised the work of the NRA for the rest of the work it has done on the Esterley Tibbetts Highway. He said the NRA was pushing hard to get the job done in a safe manner.

‘It’s 1.6 miles of road and I don’t think it’s ever been done in this country to complete this magnitude of works in the timeframe they have,’ he said. ‘It’s no credit to me. It’s the hard work of the NRA that is getting this done.’