Speed limit going up

The speed limit on the part of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway north of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman will go up from 25mph to 40mph.

Minister of Works Arden McLean announced at the Cabinet press briefing Thursday that the National Roads Authority, along with the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, had decided on Tuesday to raise the speed limit on that section of road.

‘They just decided they are going to change that now and put it to the 40 mph it was intended to be,’ he said.

The Esterley Tibbetts Highway extension from the Galleria Roundabout to Raleigh Quay was opened in September 2006. However, because the road only had a chip and spray surface, no curbing and no lighting when it opened, it was given a 25mph speed limit for safety reasons.

Since that time, the section of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway north of The Ritz-Carlton has been completed, with two asphalt-surfaced lanes in both directions, curbing and a centre media with lighting. Yet the speed limit remained 25mph.

In comparison, the recently-opened section of the East-West Arterial Highway in between Hirst Road and the Shamrock Roundabout near Mangrove Avenue has only one lane in each direction, no lighting and no curbing, and yet it has a 40mph speed limit.

Mr. McLean conceded after the press briefing that there had been complaints from the public about the 25 mph speed limit on the northern section of the Esterley Tibbetts. Some residents have become angered because the RCIPS has often used radar along that section of road to ticket people surpassing the 25mph speed limit.

During the press briefing, Mr. McLean said the reason the speed limit had been maintained at 25 mph along the Esterley Tibbetts Highway was because not all of it was complete and they did not want to have different speed limits on different parts of the highway in order not to confuse motorists.

‘Even at 25mph, it was still ten times faster than [West Bay Road],’ he said.

The Esterley Tibbetts Highway is not totally complete because one section of the highway, roughly running from Snug Harbour to behind the Strand, was originally deep swamp. Rather than de-muck the area and then backfill it, the National Roads Authority decided to use a geotextile membrane over the swamp and then fill on top of it, saving considerable money. However, geotextile membranes require 18 to 24 months to settle before lighting can be installed and the final surface applied.

Mr. McLean said the time was nearing when the NRA could complete the necessary road works on the Esterley Tibbetts Highway.

With regard to the lighting around the East-West Arterial, Mr. McLean said NRA staff was working on that project.

‘They’re looking at lighting it; they’re looking at how to light it,’ he said.

Complicating the lighting issue is the fact that the NRA is only intending to build one of the lanes of the East-West Arterial in each direction as this point. However, one additional lane in each direction will be built in the future when traffic volumes demand it.

Mr. McLean said the challenge was figuring out how to design lighting for the two lanes that exist now, and which could still be used whenever the additional lanes are built.