Resurfacing work on a section of Rum Point Drive has upset some Grand Cayman residents, who are concerned the “spray and chip” surface will not be able to withstand weather and traffic conditions as well as the previous “hot mix asphalt” surface.
National Roads Authority officials say the spray and chip surface treatment – where a sprayed-on bituminous surface is coated with stone chips – is a temporary measure, and that workers will redo the road surface with hot asphalt when funds are made available.
Robert Hill, chairman of the Cayman Kai Property Owners Association, kicked off a series of e-mail exchanges with National Roads Authority Managing Director Brian Tomlinson at the beginning of May.
Mr. Hill wrote, “We do not understand when we have been patient for years waiting for pavement, that the NRA would be installing an antiquated road system such as chip and tar in a short section of 1.5 miles of Rum Point Drive.”
The roadwork extends from just west of the former Driftwood Bar & Grill to the Cayman Kai Public Beach, just short of the entrance to Rum Point.
Mr. Hill wrote, “This system is dusty, hard on the vehicles, does not hold up under rainy conditions, is extremely treacherous for cyclists, yet it is being installed now.
“Our community is incensed that this would happen. We want the old road back and if that can’t happen, then pave with asphalt the section that you have destroyed.” Mr. Tomlinson responded that Rum Point Drive is in need of more than just superficial repairs.
He wrote, “What we are currently doing is reshaping the very rough portion of Rum Point Drive. It can’t be paved in its existing condition without doing this first.
“The cross section (crown of the road) is inconsistent and the vertical profile is very rough. Once we finish with the reshaping (reconstruction) we will apply a surface treatment (spray and chip) to keep it from being washed out by the rain. We will be advertising for bids to do the hot mix asphalt paving for the reconstructed section very soon.”
The authority ran advertisements for the project bids in the 7 May issue of the Caymanian Compass.
Mr. Tomlinson wrote, “When the bids come in; and if the government’s budget allows; we will then pave this section with hot mix asphalt. If the budget does not allow for it in this fiscal year (FY ends 30 June) we will seek an appropriation in next year’s budget to get the hot mix asphalt paving done.”
The authority’s Deputy Managing Director Edward Howard told the Compass on 28 May that the road in its current condition is not up to engineering standards. Noting he had not yet seen the final plans for the road, Mr. Howard said the authority hopes the new road will be contained within the existing right of way, but if it needs to encroach upon private property, then officials will notify property owners according to compulsory acquisition procedures.
Mr. Hill wrote, “Being a main thoroughfare, where many residents bicycle as well, we do not want it to turn out like Finger Cay Road, which is impassable and dusty, let alone the damage the stone chips do to your vehicle. “We hope you can get the hot asphalt done as soon as possible.”
Mr. Tomlinson wrote, “It’s interesting you refer to Finger Cay Road. The surface on that road is the first stage of a multiple-stage construction. The next stage will be another surface treatment with a smaller, black chip. After that it will be considerably smoother, will resemble a hot mix asphalt surface, and should last 15 years or more.
“Staged construction, which spreads the financial outlay over multiple years is a proven and effective process but in the public’s eye it can be misunderstood until the final finish is applied.
“If we had all the required financial resources to have ‘perfect’ roads we would not have to use this process. However, that is not the case.”
Additionally, the authority is tearing up and resurfacing (also “spray and chip”) Peninsula Drive, the access road to Governor’s Harbour that runs parallel to Esterley Tibbetts Highway.
As of press time, authority officials had not responded to a Compass inquiry regarding how many similar spray and chip projects are being undertaken, and what are the relative costs of spray and chip surfaces versus hot mix asphalt.