Roatan’s Beauty, Truth & Wisdom
A culvert being built in Sandy Bay by Roatan Municipal crew.

A New Roads Should Create New Opportunities

Officials at the Roatan Municipality have a vision of how the island could look in 10, 20, or even 50 years: ample well-kept roads, an efficient garbage removal and disposal system, and an energy grid that makes life easier for residents and visitors alike. Today, this vision is closer than ever to reality. Over the last six years, all existing roads have been rebuilt and several new roads are in the pipeline.

Ten or fifteen years ago, the Roatan Municipality’s budget was not sufficient for such an ambitious project. Now, with an annual municipal income of over $10 million, the municipality has been able to embark on larger scale projects. “We have been making roads for about five to six years now, so everyone knew that this was going to happen at one point,” says Ing. Ricardo Castillo, infrastructure chief of the Roatan Municipality.

This summer, the municipality is focused on the Sandy Bay road building. Employing 120 road construction workers, the 8.3 km project − which began on September 20, 2022 in Sandy Bay − is expected to be completed in October 2023.

The nine meter wide road will contain two three and a half meter lanes and a one meter lane for walking or cycling. Using state of the art 5200 PSI concrete, the road is expected to last for thirty years.

The road’s most challenging segment is between Sandy Bay’s Ramírez and Anthony’s Key. By the end of June, the Municipality was 1.2 kilometers away from West End with the dirt work.

“A proper asphalt road should last 15 to 20 years without any maintenance,” said Castillo. Islanders got nearly double that lifespan out of their Sandy Bay road, which was originally built in the 1980s. Despite numerous repairs and emergency measures, the road survived nearly 40 years. Since 2010, funds have been available for pothole repairs and maintenance to prevent the road from deteriorating.

Most challenging segment is between Sandy Bay’s Ramírez and Anthony’s Key.

White topping road around 500 culverts are planned to be installed in the Mud Hole to West End. “We make them bigger, we stabilize the area around them,” says Ing. Castillo. “We are taking everything that is less than 36 inches and putting brand new material.”

As the road widens, Roatan Electrical Company [RECO] moves electrical posts at their own expense, a process that started in 2018. “It gets a little bit rough, but in the end they do help us out,” says Ing. Castillo. A few RECO posts are waiting to be moved in Dixon Cove. Once that is done, the Municipal can finish sidewalks and cycling lanes in that area.

IDECA won the concrete paving contract for the road. Their winning bid came in at around 59 million Lps. ($2.4 million USD). The entirety of the project is estimated to cost the Municipality and the Roatan taxpayers Lps. 155 million ($6.3 million USD).

In the end, the road construction costs on the island are pretty competitive with road construction costs on the Honduran mainland. The key to that is doing the roadwork part of the road paving projects in house.

On the new and rebuilding road projects, the work is typically divided into two parts. The contractor does the concrete paving of the road, but beforehand, the Municipality constructs the earthwork, culvert, and gullies and sidewalks. They negotiate with property owners and easements, or access issues. “We give it a lot of attention, since we are from here,” says Ing. Castillo. “We don’t tend to buy land to build roads, but people tend to see how their property value could increase.”

According to Ing. Castillo, Roatan Municipality spends around Lps. 20 − Lps. 22 million per kilometer of road and, all costs included. “That, in the end, is the reason why we do what we do,” says Ing. Castillo. “We know the people, we know the work, and we know what to do. The neighbors usually try to help us out with the road construction.” That would not always be the case with a mainland company, whose employees don’t know or understand the island or its people.

There are two other sections of the PO-35 national road to be rebuilt. There is a 2.3 kilometer road from Mud Hole to the KIX scheduled to follow in 2024. The most complex part will be the white topping of the PO-35, the 1.5 kilometer road from the KIX sporting complex to the Roatan Airport.

The 1.5 kilometer road was sent out to an outside company for design, as it is the most complex portion of the island’s main road system. “We want an over bridge and some big construction on the site,” said Ing. Castillo. The sewer and rain escapes are a big issue in the steep terrain of the road cutting across Coxen Hole between the airport and Calle Ocho. That is planned to be done in late 2024.

There are two other sections of the PO-35 national road to be rebuilt.

There are some interesting features of the island’s revitalized road system. The Mud Hole intersection is to receive a traffic roundabout, the biggest one on the island. Coxen Hole center road will have three lanes of traffic, and the road will be reduced to two lanes around the KIX sporting complex on the north side of Coxen Hole.

There are more possibilities of roads the Municipality is looking at: a northern road that starts in West End, continues to Palmetto, climbs to Crawfish Rock, descends to the Pristine Bay roundabout, and connects to the Big Bight road and eventually ends at Plan Grande. All that is possible thanks to the heavy machinery that the Roatan Municipality owns. Municipality has begun dirt work on the old Palmetto to Tres Flores road. The paving for that portion is expected for 2024.

The municipality has gained much-needed experience in the road paving business. The stretch between Island Saloon and the oxidation pond was perhaps the most challenging earthwork in the process of rebuilding the municipality’s road system. The municipal was built in two months. “That was pretty hectic. We moved 1500 tons of dirt there,” said Ing. Castillo.

By the Madeyso store and by the Megaplaza mall the municipal had to move dirt out and replace it with rock to stabilize the road’s substrate. As much as 15 feet of dirt had to be moved and replaced.

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