The road has been constructed, the paving completed, the lighting in place, and the landscaping green and growing. The extension of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway to Batabano is being blocked only by a few barricades and some last-minute bureaucratic manoeuvring. Green lights should soon follow.
The opening of the road extension into West Bay remains unscheduled despite Dart Realty’s completion of the link and an audit by the National Roads Authority.
Last week, government said it hoped for results in ongoing talks with the Dart group on other matters, but a Thursday statement by Dart Realty Chief Operating Officer Jackie Doak disassociated the road opening from those talks.
“Dart Realty has completed the construction of the ETH extension phase two, and the NRA inspections have occurred,” she said, alluding to the initial 2012 drive to connect the Esterley Tibbetts Highway to the new roundabout at Yacht Drive, followed by second-phase construction of links to both Batabano Road and Willie Farrington Drive.
“We are in productive discussions with government on a few items in the NRA agreement, but these discussions do not impact the opening of the road to the public. We anticipate that government will soon be notifying the public that the road will be opening,” she said.
The two extensions, part of the Dart’s overall Esterley Tibbetts Highway project, are part of a December 2011 ForCayman Investment Alliance agreement with both government and the National Roads Authority.
The complex history of the pact encompasses a series of amendments and at least two value-for-money studies by PricewaterhouseCoopers, examining the worth of construction and land swaps to government, Dart and the public purse.
Signed on 15 December, 2011, the agreement enabled Dart to assume control of the Marriott Courtyard, which closed in 2008; close down approximately 4,000 feet of the West Bay Road between Trafalgar Square and Yacht Drive and extend the Esterley Tibbetts Highway from Raleigh Quay to Batabano. Roadwork started in January 2012, and the initial phase to Yacht Drive opened 18 March this year.
A new hotel on the Marriott site, to be operated by San Francisco’s Kimpton group, will now look out onto uninterrupted beachfront because of the closure of the road. The hotel complex will be complemented by surrounding amenities including pedestrian and bike paths, kiosks, sports pitches, the northward expansion of Public Beach and construction of parking areas, campsites and recreational facilities.
A series of amendments to the December 2011 agreement added undertakings by both Dart and government which included beaches and roads in Barkers, and land for the Sunrise Adult Training Centre.
A third amendment, proposed in May, would have committed Dart to build government’s long-sought expansion from two lanes to four lanes of the Harquail Bypass, and a transfer of $3.5 million of land near Smith Cove.
The complexities of the third amendment, however, spurred Dart to drop the talks, hoping, among other things, to force government’s release of PwC’s previously confidential surveys.
Dart accused government of seeking to elicit more “last-minute” changes to the agreement prior to 22 May general elections, but said the company continued to support the Harquail Bypass expansion and both the Smith’s Cove and Barkers land swaps.
To date, the third set of changes has never been signed, however, they remain the subject of ongoing talks.