The largest infrastructure project in Roatan’s history was coming close to fruition in September with the newly paved West End Road set to reopen to vehicular traffic September 29.
The last bits of concrete were laid September 5, after which crews began applying a sealant to the new textured, sand-colored surface. The next step was to finish installing utility-access boxes, then backfill the roadsides and raise them to the level of the road. Contractors were also working to get all users hooked up to the new sewage system. The new plant will not function properly without an adequate amount of solids flowing through it, said Edward Ake of Island Concrete, which built the road.
As of mid-September, only about half a dozen establishments had hooked up to the new sewer lines.
“Everybody has got to hook up to the system,” said Roatan Mayor Julio Galindo at a West End town meeting September 10.
The main issue at the meeting was regulating parking, access and traffic flow along the new artery to minimize congestion and permit a safe and steady flow of customers to West End’s many bars, restaurants and tourist establishments.
Parking in particular was a “very touchy” issue, said the Mayor. There is limited capacity to add new parking areas along the congested strip, and taxis and other vehicles parking or waiting on the road create gridlock. Esmeralda Mann suggested requiring all property owners to provide parking for their tenants. Others suggested that if clear parking rules were established, the market would make off-street parking available. But Galindo cautioned against establishing rules that would necessitate “brutal” enforcement.
Some at the meeting also expressed concern about the new road turning into a speedway. “Bad things are happening,” said Michelle Crimmin of Georphi’s Hideaway. Galindo suggested installing speed bumps.
A number of proposals have been floated to bring order to the new road, including prohibiting parking on the road and preventing taxis and minibuses from waiting on the road after dropping off passengers. Others have suggested making the road one-way, which would require an outlet at the south end, making it pedestrian-only during certain hours, issuing parking stickers, running shuttles up and down the road from the parking lot outside the roundabout or making golf carts or rickshaws available for common use.
Businesses at the south end of the strip, such as Foster’s, expressed concern that some of the proposals would prevent customers from reaching them.
Galindo urged West End businesses and property owners come together on a set of proposals that would address everyone’s interests, then bring those ideas to the Municipality. He added that West End was trying to solve problems of parking and zoning that “should have been done 30 years ago.”
“West End is tough,” he said. “You people have to figure out what works best.”
Noting that “an outlet would be a big help,” Galindo vowed to continue to work to open additional side roads to relieve congestion on West End Road. Such efforts have been opposed by property owners. But Galindo said “the law is on our side.”
“You’re landlocked here,” said Galindo. People “can’t get in” and they “can’t get out.”
He said he would also keep looking for a place to install public toilets.
Community members also raised problems of access for emergency vehicles, delivery trucks and garbage trucks. The Mayor suggested setting specific hours for delivery vehicles. Storing and compacting the garbage is another problem. Galindo said West End produced 70 tons of garbage a day, and there is very limited space for dumpsters and compactors.
“We’ve got to get West End clean,” said the Mayor. But he hastened to add that “West End is only going to be what you want it to be; not a nickel more.”
He said property tax collections were down 70 percent, some property owners’ back taxes exceeded the value of their properties, only 8 percent are paying the personal tax, and the next budget “looks bad.”
Galindo said he understood people’s frustration and that many in the community did not want the road paved (see June Voice). He noted the roadwork had started in July 2011 and had gone way over budget. But he said something had to be done, because it had become impossible to keep up the road.
“The whole project is taking shape,” he said, “but it ain’t finished.”
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