Harquail Bypass widening proposed

New addition to Dart/gov’t plan

Cayman Islands Cabinet Ministers said Thursday that plans to widen a two-lane section of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway in George Town are now being discussed with Dart Realty Cayman Ltd. as part of the National Roads Authority agreement.  

The NRA agreement forms a part of the ForCayman Investment Alliance between Dart and the local government.  

The negotiations are part of a proposed “third amendment” to the agreement between government and Dart, which was not fully detailed during a Cabinet media briefing Thursday.  

However, one key point in the discussions, according to Health Minister Mark Scotland, was the proposed widening of the Esterley Tibbetts between Lawrence Boulevard and the Butterfield roundabout, the old “Harquail Bypass”. 

“We’re trying to gain another improvement, which is to widen the section of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway … as everyone is quite aware, there have been several road deaths along that section of the road since the road was opened,” Mr. Scotland said. “It was constructed as … two lanes initially and several years after construction should have been upgraded to a dual-carriage based on the traffic in that area.”  

Dart and government officials have previously mentioned that a third amendment to the road closure agreement was being discussed, but never specifically noted the widening of the Esterley Tibbetts in George Town as part of the proposal.  

Tourism Minister Cline Glidden, Jr. said that a section of West Bay Road adjacent to Public Beach, that was supposed to have closed by the end of February, hadn’t been closed on schedule because of the negotiations on the third amendment.  

“We were expected to be able to have an agreement on the third amendment, but the issues with regard to the third amendment haven’t been sorted out,” Mr. Glidden said. “That was a bit of an expectation gap.”  

Mr. Glidden said the closure of the first section of West Bay Road up to Raleigh Quay Road [across from Calico Jack’s] was planned to proceed prior to the official gazettal of the new highway extension being built up to West Bay from the existing endpoint of the Esterley Tibbetts. However, he said the full road closure up to Yacht Drive in West Bay won’t happen until an independent value-for-money review of the entire project is completed by accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.  

The 4,290-foot section of West Bay Road is being closed to allow the construction of a four-star hotel on the property of the old Courtyard Marriott, which has been vacant since Hurricane Paloma struck in 2008.  

Deputy Premier Rolston Anglin said that talks between Dart and government on the third amendment were still proceeding in “good faith”.  

In addition to the hold up with negotiations, Premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly also noted that a lawsuit had been filed over the road closure by four local residents. However, she said she believed there would be no significant delays caused by the matter, which was under review by the Cayman Islands Legal Department. 

Plaintiffs Alice Mae Coe, Annie Multon, Ezmie Smith and Betty Ebanks – who the writ of summons describes as “Caymanians by birth” and current Cayman Islands residents – have asked the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands to stop the transaction and prevent any future transfer of the road until the Court approves. 

Issued 25 February, the writ’s defendants are the governor, attorney general, Premier O’Connor-Connolly (as Minister for District Administration, Works, Lands and Agriculture) and the National Roads Authority. Neither the Dart Group nor any of its companies are named as defendants in the lawsuit. 

 

‘Natural heritage’ 

The plaintiffs argue that the December 2011 National Roads Agreement and the way it is being implemented is unlawful.  

In a number of ways, the plaintiffs say the defendants are acting contrary to common law, the constitution and the Governor (Vesting of Lands) Law through a lack of transparency and public disclosure. 

According to the writ, “[T]he sea view and beach access from the Road utilised by Caymanians and visitors alike is a natural heritage of the Cayman Islands and should be preserved as such”. 

The roads agreement calls for the closure of West Bay Road between Yacht Drive and Governors Way. At the south end of the stretch, about 615 feet of road runs between West Bay Public Beach and a portion of Dart-leased Crown land that will be turned into a beach park and handed back over to government. 

The remainder of the road to be closed will be added to the parcels of adjacent freehold lots, almost all of which are owned by Dart. 

 

Value for money 

The plaintiffs describe the road as “one of the more scenic uninterrupted stretches of beach front road left in the Cayman Islands, and perhaps the last piece of the internationally famous Seven Mile Beach (other than the public beach), encompassing several pedestrian and vehicular access points to the beach and sea, with a spectacular view of the beach, north and south”. 

The plaintiffs say they personally have travelled the road for more than 50 years, and that people have been using the corridor “starting with horses and donkeys in the 19th century without interruption”, clearly establishing a prescriptive right of passage. 

Because the independent review of the roads agreement has not been shared with the public or introduced to the Legislative Assembly, there is no way of knowing if the roads agreement provides adequate “value for money”, the plaintiffs argue. 

According to the writ, “The Plaintiffs understand that the ‘Report’ by PricewaterhouseCoopers was handed to Cabinet and [Dart Realty] on 14 February 2013.” 

During a property conference held 28 February, Dart Enterprises Director of Estates Nigel Bates said he understood the report “will be out very shortly”, and that it will settle the issue of whether or not the project provides adequate value for money. 

 

Close to the vest 

The plaintiffs argue the government should have to follow the Governor (Vesting of Lands) Law rather than the Roads Law in order to close and vest the road corridor. 

A section of the Roads Law enables Cabinet to close any public road and then convert the corridor to Crown land or add it to any private land parcel, as long as it follows the advice of the Roads Authority. 

In August 2012, the Roads Authority Board of Directors formally approved a motion to recommend closing the section of West Bay Road and gazetting the Esterley Tibbetts Highway extension. 

A different law, the Governor (Vesting of Lands) Law allows the governor or Cabinet to transfer Crown land, but it requires additional measures, including a report outlining the proposed transaction, a government valuation, two independent valuations and advertisements in a newspaper and Cayman Islands Gazette. The minister responsible for lands (i.e. Ms O’Connor-Conolly) introduces the documents to the Legislative Assembly, and gives 21 days for legislators to oppose it. 

Further, the plaintiffs argue that a section of the Roads Law instructing Cabinet to act “fairly and justly” means Cabinet should follow the process under the Governor (Vesting of 
Lands) Law. 

According to the plaintiffs, the defendants are “clearly attempting to illegally side step the requirements under the [Governor (Vesting of Lands) Law] under the guise of proceeding with the Agreement under Section 14 of the Roads Law”. 

The plaintiffs also ask the court to rule as unconstitutional a section of the Governor (Vesting of Lands) Law that allows Cabinet to waive notice requirements if the Crown land is going to a
statutory authority or government company, or if the transfer is in the 
public interest. 

10 COMMENTS

  1. Island needs something to be done, but budget money was spend on luxury travel? Call Dart!

    But the whole idea of widening I would argue for installing a barrier in the center is great and long awaited.

  2. I am pretty sure that Mr. Dart is in no hurry to have 4-lane highway running through Camana Bay.

    And while we expand this road, why don’t we try to pretend that we are a tourist destination and beautify it at the same time. Some rows of silver-thatch and royal palms would do just fine.

  3. If everyone recalls, this accident was the result of a very drunk driver and high speed.

    This stretch of road simply needs concrete Jersey Barriers. Cheap, easy and very effective.

  4. hummmm let me think a wider road give me more opportunity to overtake and speed…i agree with the barriers in the center plant some trees and slow this speeding racing traffic down…slower driving results in fewer accidents. AND notice in the article it writes Dart and the government…..Shouldn’t it be Government and Dart??? isnt that how it is in reality??? Dart and the government????

  5. Doesn’t matter how wide we make the roads. We must remove those cars with nuts behind the wheel. The crazy, careless, drinking , texting, phoning drivers will continue to cause accidents on any kind of road we provide. Lets stop issuing/reissuing licenses to people who don’t give a hoot about rules, regulations or the lives of others using the road. There is not one day that we don’t observe some idiot trying some crazy antic in the midst of traffic. Think about it. It’s true. Go ahead, make the roads wider, put up barriers, more signs, better lighting and see how things will improve. The LPH was welcomed to ease ttraffic which it certainly has, but have you observed the racing that takes place every day…….?

  6. Although I would not oppose the closure of the west bay road if it is demonstrated that the island will receive value for money from the deal, I would very much disagree with widening the road in front of caymana bay unless this road accommodates for pedestrian crossings and low speed limits. We cannot have people driving 40mph to 50 mph in camana bay as we cannot have people driving at those speeds on the downtown waterfront.

    Downtown waterfront needs to be also closed to car traffic and made more pedestrian friendly similar to the paseo in caymana bay. A cobble stone street filled with restaurants spilling on the street, nightly entertainment, flowers etc would welcome tourists as they disembark. Malking tourists feel welcome results in more spending and the possibility of them returning as stay over tourists.

    Let’s also change the laws and allow cruise ships to stay in overnight. This would allow immediate revitalization of our downtown core.

    Let’s create the caymana bay paseo concept downtown. The only time my family and I go downtown is for pirates week event in oct. what can’t we have that type of environment all year round?

    It would also be quite inexpensive to close the road and beautify it. So why can’t we add it to dart’s list of to dos?

  7. @ reme. Video cameras for ticketing drivers running red lights should go online. I am absolutely shocked at how many people run red lights recently. It seems that amber means accelerate as fast as possible through the intersection instead of coming to a complete stop if able to do so safely.

    Time amber light is lit needs to also increase. In seems that green lights switch way to quickly to red light. There should also be a 3 second period where all I lights in the intersection are red. I believe that currently a light turns red concurrently with the red light turning green in the opposite direction.

  8. What sense does it make to widen the road to four lanes when there is only two lanes running through Camana Bay? That means you have for lanes then it narrows to two just to accomodate Dart then goes to four again on into West Bay. This defeats the purpose. Why dont they widen it to four the whole way? Oh thats true, i forgot. Mr. Dart wouldnt want a four lane highway running through the middle of his precious little city now would he.

  9. While waiting for a friend and somewhat bored I came up with a game to count the drivers with a phone or texting and was surprised with the number of people I saw breaking the law.
    As I am not a trained RCIPs officer I am sure they could do the same and make revenue for the country.

  10. 82islandboy makes a good point that bears repeating.

    The widening of the southern stretch of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway to four lanes is very welcome news especially in light of the impending closure of part of the West Bay Road. However the real value of having those four lanes won’t be realized if the portion passing through Camana Bay is left at just two lanes, as that area is already a traffic bottleneck especially in the morning rush hour. It will be even more of a bottleneck if/when the portion of West Bay Road is closed, forcing all traffic onto the northern section of Esterley Tibbetts Highway.

    When will the section of highway through Camana Bay be upgraded to four lanes to match the two sections of highway either side of it? How long will we have to suffer even worse traffic bottlenecks in that area, before the upgrading is done to widen that section to four lanes?

Comments are closed.