The Esterley Tibbetts Highway extension from the Galleria Roundabout to Raleigh Quay will officially open to traffic today at 7am.
Minister of Works Arden McLean called the event an historic occasion, noting that ‘it is the first time that a properly engineered bridge has been incorporated into a major arterial road in the Cayman Islands’.
The road will open with restrictions until the National Road Authority completes all of the roadwork. Mr. McLean stressed that the public should use caution on the road.
‘While we can be happy that there will be relief from traffic congestion, we should not become over-exuberant or hasty when using the roadway,’ he said.
‘The spray and chip surface is an interim measure emplaced to facilitate settling of the roadway while simultaneously permitting traffic use at reduced speeds.’
Initially, motorists will have a speed limit of 25 miles per hour on the road. When all the roadwork is completed, the speed limit will increase to 40 mph.
In addition, the road will only be open from 6am to 7pm every day at first.
‘There isn’t proper lighting on the road and government can’t be liable,’ Mr. McLean said. ‘We have to limit the time [the road is open] because we have to be concerned about the traffic at night.’
The placement of lighting is ongoing; however, NRA Managing Director Colford Scott said there was a 700-foot section of the road where lighting would have to wait another six months to a year.
That section of road, where the NRA placed a geotextile liner over a particularly deep section of peat, is still settling, and Mr. Scott said any lighting placed there now could end up leaning.
Access to the highway from West Bay Road will also be limited. Entry points include Raleigh Quay Road, Lime Tree Bay Avenue, Canal Point Drive, and the Galleria Roundabout. Traffic can exit at Governor’s Way, Lime Tree Bay Avenue, Canal Point Drive and the Galleria Roundabout.
NRA Managing Director Colford Scott said the one-way accesses at Raleigh Quay and Governor’s Way were not permanent.
‘They are interim safety control measures,’ he said. ‘We thought it would be less confusing to the motorists coming from West Bay. At a later date, we will open both roads to two-way traffic.’
In addition to paving the road with hot-mixed asphalt and erecting lighting, the NRA will also have to finish the curb placement and landscape the roadsides.
Although water-filled barriers will be used to help make the road safer until the completion of all work, Mr. McLean still worries about safety.
‘I am concerned about people using this road,’ he said. ‘I have nightmares about it.
‘I just hope and pray nobody abuses the open road this will provide. It’s a tempting stretch of road.’
Mr. McLean said the speed limit on the road will be enforced.
‘The police will be extremely vigilant on that stretch of road,’ he said.
Crossing the highway will also pose a hazard for pedestrians.
‘Pedestrians have to be extremely careful,’ Mr. McLean said. ‘There is no means for them to control traffic, although there are refuges in the median to allow for them to cross safely.’
Mr. McLean estimated the two-mile road extension would cost about $12 million when completed. The hot-mix asphalt aspect will only cost about 10 per cent of the total amount, Mr. Scott estimated.
Mr. McLean said it was very difficult to open the new section of road in just nine months.
‘It has been a long nine months,’ he said. ‘For me it’s been longer than for the general public. I had really hoped we could have [opened the road] much earlier.’