As this issue went to press in late May, grading work was underway in preparation for paving the northernmost section of West End Road, between Half Moon Resort and Woody’s grocery store. Edward Ake of Island Concrete, the contractor for the project, said the next step would be to lay the curbs, then apply the concrete cap.
“If the weather behaves and we get some sun, we should be paving within five working days,” Ake said May 24.
As of May 23 the road leading to the peninsula between Half Moon Bay and Mangrove Bight was closed for construction. Ake said it would remain closed for about a week. But he said the road through El Barrinche to the main highway had been reopened, which would alleviate access problems.
Ake said Island Concrete was working to open the road behind Sunset Villa so that roadwork could begin at the opposite end of the strip, at Lost Paradise. Paving would then proceed from each end toward the center, with the traffic circle at the entrance to West End (the Triangle) being completed last.
Roatan Mayor Julio Galindo said May 24 that legal processes were underway to obtain rights of way through side roads to relieve traffic bottlenecks as the paving proceeds.
The application of a concrete cap to West End Road is the culmination of a controversial Lps. 74 million infrastructure upgrade that has been more than a year in planning and execution and far more than that in discussion. It is the largest project ever undertaken by Roatan Municipality and includes storm drainage and sewage collection and treatment as well as the paving.
Galindo sold the community on the project in March 2011 (see “West End’s Potholes Could Have Their Days Numbered” in the April 2011 Voice or click here to read online). But the project remains deeply divisive even as the work proceeds.
Proponents of the project argue, among other things, that paving the road will eliminate the potholes, puddles and mudpits that clog West End after every heavy rain, all evident in mid-May. Critics counter that the sand road is an essential part of the idyllic, laid-back ambience that attracts visitors to West End from around the world, and that paving it would also lead to faster vehicular traffic that would endanger pedestrians.
“The foreigners didn’t want the paving; the locals didn’t want the sewer,” said Mayor Galindo. However, an informal survey conducted by the Voice revealed a less clear-cut division, with both foreigners and islanders coming down on both sides of the issue.
For example, Cinzia Bondesani, an Italian national and part owner of Mucho Bueno, thought paving the road would put an end to the mud puddles and create a “more developed environment.” In contrast, the vast majority of Hondurans surveyed responded that paving the road would destroy the relaxed and easygoing getaway that is West End.
Life-long Roatan resident Bernadette Miller saw both pros and cons to putting concrete on the road, but added “I will be able to use my tennis shoes” after it is paved. Similarly, a group of young Americans from Ohio thought that Roatan needed a working sewage system but that the implementation should respect what the island is all about.
Roberto González, a migrant from Tegucigalpa, thought that “the homes of different species will be dramatically transformed” by the paving project, because it would alter the natural state of the road. Finally, Mayan Princess diving instructor Julie Leroux declared that in order for the area to stay authentic, West End “needs absolutely no concrete.”
Foreign residents commenting online on the Voice’s Facebook page were universally opposed to the paving of West End Road.
“The sand road made it (West End) special,” wrote Rodrigo Lacayo of Guatemala City. In a similar vein, Lorna Flowers-Miller of Boston wrote: “This makes me sad. Those unpaved roads are part of the beauty of West End.”
Rene Roy Hansen of Houston, who lived in West End 1999-2000, wrote that he was “very sad to hear it’s happening (the paving).”
“The dirt road is absolutely part of the charm” of West End, Hansen continued, adding that it “made the cab drivers have to slow down.”
In defense of the paving project, Mayor Galindo said that if the road were left as it was, “you really got a problem.”
“I know there are people in West End, especially foreign people, who don’t want the road paved,” said Galindo. He said he respected their views, but he maintained “There is absolutely no way that you can keep that road decent if you don’t pave it.”
Several West End business owners, however, argued that the mud problem could have been corrected by installing proper drainage systems and periodically scraping the road surface without paving the road.
Galindo said Ivan Jones Co. was now preparing an engineering study on repairing the badly potholed West Bay Road from West End to Coxen Hole, a much less controversial project. He said he had secured a Lps. 46 million loan from Banco Atlántida for the project and hoped to take bids and complete the work before the onset of winter rains.
“That road is in terrible shape,” said Galindo. “It won’t take another winter.” So far no one disagrees.