The first phase of a major multiyear project to redevelop roads around George Town is under way.
Work began this week on widening Godfrey Nixon Way, which connects Eastern Avenue to the Esterley Tibbetts Highway and is viewed as a key route for traffic around George Town.
A plan to widen the Linford Pierson Highway to four lanes is also being drawn up. The highway is one of the island’s most heavily congested roads at peak times. Work on that project could begin in the next financial year, according to Tristan Hydes, deputy chief officer in the Ministry of Planning.
Government has indicated it will invest around $5 million for various roadwork projects around the capital in the next financial year and will continue to invest in upgrades over the next few years.
Mr. Hydes said the planned road improvements, part of the George Town Revitalization Project, will help alleviate growing problems with traffic congestion.
He said work on Godfrey Nixon Way and the widening of Smith Road and Humber Lane will help traffic flow more smoothly around the capital, particularly in key business areas and close to the hospitals and schools.
He added, “There is quite a bit of infrastructure work that is planned over the coming years for the revitalization project and for the George Town area in general.”
Mr. Hydes said much of the work is still in the planning and development stages, and more research needs to be done before the various projects can be put out to tender.
But key projects in and around George Town are already under way.
“With the proposed development of the cruise terminal, there are also a number of future works that the Ministry and the NRA recognize as a top priority,” he added.
“The extension of Godfrey Nixon to North Church Street is another piece of the puzzle connecting downtown, and facilitating more efficient flow of traffic in and out of the business district, while simultaneously opening areas for renewed development.”
He said there are also plans to upgrade Edward Street in downtown George Town in an effort to alleviate some of the burden of traffic on Harbour Drive.
“We foresee these links, in concert with a number of other key developments, as key to relieving much of the traffic congestion in and around George Town,” he said.
Cayman’s growing population appears to be putting pressure on the road network. The Cayman Compass reported this week that there are now 35,885 vehicles on the roads – the highest ever and an increase of more than 2,000 in a year.
The National Roads Authority has declined to discuss the road redevelopment plan.
Minutes from its November 2014 board meeting, obtained through an open records request, suggest the widening of the Linford Pierson Highway is in advanced stages of design.
Members of the National Roads Authority board were shown a full-scale drawing with details of the proposed widening at that meeting. The minutes indicate that the aim is to widen the road along the stretch between Silver Oaks and the Bobby Thompson Way roundabout – the single lane stretch of highway where traffic from the eastern districts bottlenecks during rush hours.
The minutes indicate that government’s Lands and Survey Department has estimated a cost of just over $3.5 million for land acquisition along the road corridor.
Premier Alden McLaughlin has highlighted improving the roads around the capital as one of the priorities for the revitalization of George Town. In a policy statement last year, he said around $5 million would be allocated in the next financial year, largely toward roadwork in the capital.
In a separate speech at the Cayman Economic Outlook forum, he said improving roads around the capital is crucial to the future of George Town.
“We see these roads as the catalyst to the revitalization project as they will facilitate the efficient flow of traffic in and out of the business district.”