Government plans to proceed with a 10-mile extension of the East-West Arterial Highway from next year, according to Infrastructure Minister Joey Hew.
The continuation of the road is considered key to easing rush hour congestion from the eastern districts.
A partnership with the developers of Ironwood, a planned Arnold Palmer golf resort near Frank Sound, was previously discussed for the road project. But those talks stalled and there have been no recent announcements on a likely timeline for the long-discussed resort.
Minister Hew said government plans to allocate money in the next budget cycle, for 2020 and 2021, toward the extension of the road.
“This is just the government taking it on at this time,” he said.
David Moffitt, of Ironwood, said the project was still in the works and he hopes to make some announcements shortly. He said Ironwood is still willing to participate in a partnership that promotes completion of the highway, “as long as it proves beneficial for all parties.”
Hew and senior National Roads Authority officials got a bird’s-eye view of Cayman’s traffic problems when they took a helicopter flight over the island during rush hour in December.
The minister said the flight had reinforced government’s view of what needed to be done.
“In some ways, it confirmed what we thought,” Hew said. “There is no other way to deal with the issue than to extend the East-West Arterial.”
He said there were some other quick fixes that the NRA was working on in the shorter term, to ease congestion caused by traffic joining Shamrock Road from residential neighbourhoods.
“There are just too many feeder roads coming on to the main road from Lower Valley and Beach Bay all the way back to Bodden Town,” he added.
Congestion on Cayman’s roads has steadily increased over the past few years. A journey from Prospect to George Town – 10 minutes on clear roads – can take up to 45 minutes in the morning as traffic comes to a virtual standstill.
Hew said extending the highway and tweaking key roundabouts in Prospect and next to Hurley’s supermarket would make a difference.
“The NRA are working feverishly to deal with the pinch points,” he added.
But he said government’s long-term goal was to reduce the number of cars on the road.
“There is going to come a point where there won’t be enough road to hold all the cars coming into town,” he said. “The long-term fix has to be better public transport and other alternatives.”