The pair of crosswalks proposed for West Bay Road have become casualties of the reduced budget for transportation infrastructure.
In late October, National Roads Authority Managing Director Brian Tomlinson said the installation of the pedestrian crosswalks was imminent.
“There is money that was approved in this year’s budget, and the plans are done, and the materials are being ordered right now for a new crosswalk at The Strand, and we’ve been working with the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, and they have pledged another $50,000 to install one at the Westin. So that’s a start,” he said.
However, Mr. Tomlinson said Thursday the $100,000 project was cancelled due to a lack of funding a few weeks after he made that statement.
“We were ready to go forward, but we didn’t have the money to buy the materials,” he said. “Do you want me to make payroll to keep Caymanian families employed or do you want me to put up pedestrian crosswalks?”
More money, less money
The supplementary budget approved last week by the Finance Committee earmarked $7 million in appropriations for the roads authority. In order to help balance the budget, the government diverted $8 million in revenue originally intended to go to the roads authority.
“At Finance Committee they did make an appropriation from the Road Fund to the NRA. It was a little less than what we were asking for, but it was a substantial amount,” Mr. Tomlinson said.
As of 15 December, 2011, central government owed the roads authority $2.5 million for projects the roads authority had executed.
“That position really hasn’t changed, as far as the NRA being owed money. Government ends up paying part of the bill a little bit at a time, so we can still end up keeping people employed, doing maintenance work and things like that,” Mr. Tomlinson said.
The $7 million in supplemental appropriations is broken down as follows: $2.2 million for Grand Cayman District Roads Programme, $3.5 million for routine maintenance, $1.224 million for the Government Street Lighting Programme and $76,000 for Pavement and Other Roads Asset Management Programmes.
Additionally, the supplemental budget reduces funding to the Ministry of District Administration, Works, Lands and Agriculture by $664,000 for miscellaneous road surface upgrades, and increases funding to the Ministry for Cayman Brac and Little Cayman roads by $800,000.
Mr. Tomlinson said he wasn’t sure if there would be enough money to install the anticipated crosswalks, or how much of the $7 million in appropriations the roads authority would ever really see.
“The problem is we still don’t have any indication that the cash is there to actually pay us,” he said.
“Is there funding for the crosswalks? I don’t know. They made appropriations, but do they have the cash? I don’t know,” Mr. Tomlinson said.
The roads authority differs from entities such as port authority or airports authority in that the roads authority does not have a dedicated source of revenue. The Road Fund – made up of gasoline duty, diesel fuel duty, infrastructure fund fees and motor vehicle registration fees – is intended to finance the roads authority. However, during the development of this year’s budget, the government determined to bypass the Road Fund and give the money directly to the roads authority. Meanwhile, the minister in charge of Works, Juliana O’Connor-Connolly established a committee to explore the possibility of transforming the roads authority into a regulatory authority, which would result in a halving of operating costs for the roads authority, and the resulting accrual of excess revenue into the Road Fund that would not go to core government.
Premier McKeeva Bush said Cabinet would continue to give money directly to the roads authority “until a final determination can be made”.
If the roads authority became a regulatory authority, then the government would pay non-governmental contractors to perform works currently done by the roads authority.
Mr. Tomlinson doubted if sufficient public funds will be available for any significant road construction projects in the foreseeable future.
“The only way I can see to build any major highways in the future is through public-private partnerships, such as what we see with Dart Realty and the Esterley Tibbetts Highway,” he said.
“Maybe a group will want to see the East-West Arterial Highway extended further to the east, for example,” he said.