The response is: Not until there’s more money in the treasury. Or, put another way, no time soon.
That’s not to say that no striping at all is being done. Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls said any federally funded road project – which is most of the major ones – includes striping. For existing roads, he said, he tries to stretch local funds by prioritizing places where there are acute safety concerns, such as heavily trafficked or dangerous intersections on all three islands.
The current budget includes $1.5 million for striping roads – $750,000 for St. Croix and $750,000 for the St. Thomas-St. John district.
“We’re appreciative” that the Legislature appropriated the money, Smalls said, “but it’s a very small amount” compared with the work that needs to be done.
Public Works does not have the equipment needed for painting roads and has to contract private companies to do that work, he said. The department did have one striper for each district but the one on St. Thomas was destroyed in a fire at the heavy equipment facility in 2010, and the one on St. Croix was heavily damaged in a fire in 2011.
The two together cost $250,000, Smalls said. “It was a tremendous loss,” he said.
“We’re still working with the (insurance) adjustors” concerning the St. Croix incident, so there’s a little hope that eventually there will be some money for replacement, though it still may not be much. So unless and until the government’s overall fiscal health improves, there simply isn’t enough money to paint or repaint lines on all the roads and highways that need it.
In the meantime, is there concern over public safety?
“We recognize the importance of striping,” Smalls said.