The National Roads Authority says it is taking advantage of the decrease in traffic due to the COVID-19 lockdown to accelerate road infrastructure work.
In a statement released Thursday, the NRA announced that among the “critical” projects it would be undertaking in the next few weeks were the upgrading of the Chrissie Tomlinson and Grand Harbour roundabouts in the Prospect and Red Bay areas, respectively.
A number of major roads across Grand Cayman will also undergo asphalt resurfacing, the NRA said, including Shedden Road, North Sound Road and West Bay Road, “which would ordinarily be difficult to pave during heavy traffic”.
“The NRA has underscored that crew members and contractors who will be conducting the roadworks will be tested [for COVID-19] before being phased into work. In addition, crew members on work sites will be provided with personal protective equipment and will have to adhere to safety protocols and social distancing guidelines,” the authority stated.
Before the island effectively shut down in March with the introduction of shelter-in-place restrictions, the eastern districts had been experiencing among the worst traffic jams Grand Cayman has ever seen, with some commuters taking two hours or more to get to work.
The Cayman Compass reported earlier this year on a number of road projects that the NRA was planning to undertake to address congestion problems. These included the widening of the Linford Pierson Highway to four lanes through to George Town, and expanding Bobby Thompson Way to four lanes through to the intersection with Smith Road. Plans also included adding an additional lane in each direction from the Silver Oaks roundabout by Kings Sports Centre, through to the Auto Spa roundabout (just before Barcam Esso).
Thursday’s release noted that Infrastructure Minister Joey Hew has said that planned expenditure for 2020/2021 infrastructure work includes more than $25 million in road projects that will provide “a much needed stimulus to the local economy during the COVID-19 crisis”.
“We are using this time as an opportunity for the National Roads Authority to proceed with critical road construction and pavement rehabilitation projects that would prove more difficult and costly to achieve during regular traffic conditions,” he said. “Crews will be engaged under circumstances where they are adhering to social distancing protocols and equipped with proper PPE, so that we can ensure their safety while they carry out this vital improvement to the Island’s infrastructure”.
The release stated that the NRA is also gearing up to begin work on constructing a new road to connect Sparkys Drive and the roundabout adjacent to the George Town landfill on the Esterley Tibbetts Highway.
Other construction work in the private sector throughout Cayman is expected to restart next week, as it is anticipated that construction site employees will be granted essential worker status when Grand Cayman moves to Level 3 of the COVID-19 suppression stages.
Meanwhile, work on a $30 million upgrade of the Owen Roberts International Airport has been continuing since the airport was closed in March. The lack of air traffic on the runway has enabled an accelerated rate of work to be undertaken.
Among the work being carried out as part of the airport’s airfield upgrade is the rehabilitation of the existing runway surface, a runway and apron extension, a new airfield perimeter road, a new taxiway for planes, the filling in of ponds in the airfield, and expanding the aircraft parking ramp.