EDITORIAL – Road works: Hold the honking to a minimum

Starting this morning, motorists may find themselves hitting the brakes in the Seven Mile Beach corridor, as the National Roads Authority carries out repairs along the Esterley Tibbetts Highway.

In case you encounter congestion, please, be easy on the car horn — at most, issue a friendly “Cayman honk” to the road workers, who are attempting to make our streets safer and more efficient for everyone.

While we are no fans of gridlock, and often use our editorials to counsel the Cayman Islands government on “the need for speed,” we also recognize that delays and detours are often necessary prerequisites for future enhancements. Sometimes you have to slow down for a bit, so that you can speed up later.

That being said, in regard to the NRA project we’ve referenced, we can’t help but observe that it is not an expansion to the Esterley Tibbetts, but a repair job. Specifically, for three to four weeks, workers will be repairing dips in the inner lanes of the road, roughly in the area between The Ritz-Carlton and The Strand. (In other words, they’ll be flattening out the Esterley Tibbetts “roller coaster ride.”)

Considering it was opened to traffic in fall 2006, that section of the highway isn’t particularly old, according to “road standards.” If readers recall, one of the challenges in constructing the road was the presence of deep pockets of peat. The road initially had a speed limit of 25 miles per hour (with no nighttime driving permitted) because of inadequate lighting, and to allow the road to settle properly. It wasn’t until early 2008 that the speed limit was raised to 40 miles per hour.

Now, we aren’t civil engineers, but we do wonder whether the extensive repair work now being done on that section of the Esterley Tibbetts is an indication that the road wasn’t constructed properly in the first place, and if this will prove to be a one-time solution … or a temporary fix to a recurring problem.

Setting that question aside, our advice to Grand Cayman motorists is to get used to orange traffic cones, workers in brightly colored vests and the motions of heavy machinery. Generally speaking, those sights and sounds are welcome hallmarks of progress and development, and are harbingers of better things to come.

Practically speaking, it looks like we will have to coexist with road construction for the next several years, so we might as well focus patiently on the positive potential, rather than any short-term inconvenience. For example, on the south end of the Esterley Tibbetts, the Dart Group is doubling the capacity of the highway between Camana Bay and the Quincentennial (Butterfield) Roundabout, and is undertaking the construction of a vehicular underpass that will “bury” a rerouted section of the highway as it passes along Camana Bay.

On the other side of George Town, following up on welcome improvements to Smith Road, the NRA is planning to enhance Bobby Thompson Way (the road between the Cricket Oval and Linford Pierson Highway), with a view toward expanding Linford Pierson and uncorking the twice-daily bottlenecks that frustrate residents of the eastern half of the island. (And don’t forget about the much-anticipated extension of the East-West Arterial.)

If planned and executed properly, all of the individual projects should, in concert, add up to a vastly improved transportation network for Grand Cayman that will accommodate and facilitate future growth in the island’s population, economy and tourism activity.

After years of construction, thousands of man-hours of labor and millions upon millions of dollars in capital investment — who knows? — perhaps, eventually, Grand Cayman can one day aspire to have a road system as immaculate as that of Cayman Brac!