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Airport expansion cost increases by over $95M

A section of the Terrence B Lettsome International Airport. (File Photo)

Davion Smith, BVI News Journalist

Following reports that government is still moving ahead with the controversial airport expansion project, the estimated cost of the project has increased by more than $95 million.

China Communications Construction Company was selected as the preferred bidder to extend the runway at a cost of $153,432,572.

But, according to the National Democratic Party’s proposed recovery plan, the government is now pumping $250 million into the project.

The airport expansion has been placed under the category of ‘business and economy’ in the proposed plan.

Of the six priority categories in the plan, ‘business and economy’ is projected to receive majority of the $721 million that will be pumped into the territory’s recovery.

Business and economy will be allocated $262.9 million. However, most of that allocation will be used up to expand the airport.

Chart showing the $262.9 million that will be allocated to the ‘Business and Economy’ category of government’s proposed recovery plan.

The airport expansion is projected to absorb 95 percent of the funds allocated to the business and economy category.

The project will see the runway at the Terrence B Lettsome Airport being extended from 4645 feet to about 7100 feet so larger aircrafts can land in the territory.

In the meantime, the six priority areas in government’s proposed plan – which is in its preliminary stages – are business and economy ($262.9M), infrastructure ($216M), human and social services ($136.4M), natural resources and climate change ($25.9M), governance ($79.6M), and pride and cultural identity ($2M).

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41 Comments

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  1. Just a thought.... says:

    Let us continue to sit around complaining and not offering alternatives while St Kitts, St Maarten and others continue to laugh at us and capitalize on our lack of vision. The one thing that’s saving the BVI is its pristine sailing offerings, otherwise we would be dead. This same opposition came about when H.L. Stoutt and leaders before tried to do things in the BVI. The Admin Complex had push back, the Cruise Pier as pioneered by CB Romney and others had push back, the College had push back, the Noel Lloyd Park had push back, the Tortola Pier Park had push back. In all cases people said they won’t work and would be a waste of money. I don’t have to go into detail to explain that every single one has contributed positively to the BVI.

    If you are not for the expansion then put forward viable alternatives but simply saying we don’t want airport, we don’t want hotels, we don’t need investors, we don’t need help, then we are simply asking for trouble. Healthy debate is always helpful but being against everything just for the hell of it helps nobody! We want jobs, opportunity etc. for the thousands that will be graduating in the next 10-15 years. Will Government hire all of them? NO! So where will they find opportunities if we don’t carefully develop our Territory and its offerings? Look around and ask yourselves why some of our neighboring islands similar in size that were once considered ghettos are now eating into our share of valued tourists/high-end visitors? Let’s get serious man, Irma while destructive was an opportunity for us to wake up and get some things right after all.

    • WHAT.. says:

      First, build infrastructure then do bigger things. The BVI infrastructure is lacking badly, it is no secret. No is the time to build a sustainable base!
      $295 million would go a very long way to accomplish this.
      You have to build a strong and firm foundation first otherwise all will fall…

      • ??? says:

        Isn’t the airport, part of the “infrastructure”?

        The problem isn’t the airport (we need it), it is how it will be paid for.

        In the past, the gov has proposed that the gov should pay for it, and that is what is being opposed by the public.

        So the wise thing to do, is to let a private entity build it and the gov regulate it. It’s that SIMPLE.

    • Albion says:

      Actually I am laughing at them: they spent hundreds of millions on new airport facilities which brought no appreciable increase in tourist visitors. We are the smart ones here.

      We have STT a stone’s throw away. We don’t need our own runway which will sit empty and unused. Just better links to STT with its cheap and plentiful flights to the US.

      • White Elephants says:

        Agree. Let’s focus on safe, affordable and reliable roads, electricity, high speed Internet, and water before we toss away another nickle on a $300m runway. Shouldn’t we have a say in establishing the priorities?

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      • @Albion says:

        You’re laughing at them? Really? So BVI is better off than SKB when it comes to valued tourists and proper hotel/resort offerings, road networks, historic sites for visitors, cruise facilities etc.? You’re laughing? You may need your head checked. Someone wants to bring their family to the BVI to stay and they want lodging on Tortola, where do you send them?

    • green cup says:

      Agree with all you said.. Interesting comment about the “ghettos” though.. THAT thinking is more dangerous than any plan to build or not build the airport… Many of those “ghettos” have contributed waaaaay more to the world than the BVI’s.. You spoiled a very positive contribution with that reckless statement…

  2. WHAT.. says:

    Just a sick bunch… No words for this…No infrastructure but an airport extension..sick leaders..

  3. Hmm says:

    And what about the state of the art ferry terminal that is desperately needed and will boost our tourism product and means of travel between British and US Virgin Islands? We need to stop using temporary fixes as permanent solutions especially setting up a temporary structure in West End and sinking millions into an airport expansion that will not generate revenue or returns. INVEST IN THE WEST END TERMINAL!! 🙁

    • sam the man says:

      West End ferry terminal is essential 30 mins away to St Thomas which has a large runway and international flights – but our leaders simply havn’t a clue and want something that isn’t needed so that they can do the usual brown envelopes…sad really

      • @Sam says:

        Keep relying on St Thomas and boosting their economy and see where that leaves us. The BVI needs either a proper flight connection option via PR or extended runway, relying totally on STT is not a smart option.

  4. Eagle eye says:

    Ndp you are salt come election day

    • Hmmm says:

      We really wish to say salt but that wouldnt be because they know how to catch the people and they have already started. See that is why they want to hurry up with the changes of expat rights to the BVI so they can vote them back in

  5. ? says:

    Surely that money would be more importantly spent on housing locals who have lost their homes? Or maybe fixing the infrastructure of the BVI before we try to bring in more tourists??? Or maybe the government should lower the amount of money they charge Day boats from the USVI? Which is now 70$ a day per person? Then more tourists would be willing to come into the BVI, and they would in turn use their money at local establishments which would actually help re build the economy? I don’t see how building a large airport with no planes to fill it will actually help? It just seems like the government wants to build something large before they get voted out.

  6. Bruce says:

    Seems like the cost is about $100 million to high

  7. Bystander says:

    New coordinated ferries to STT; lease a dock there near the airport and do immigration and perhaps some customs on the ferry. The ‘planes will only come from the US anyway. This will cost a fraction of $153m which will probably double any way. It also avoids damaging the environment, which is BVI’s main draw; and the boat ride is lovely.

    • Let the Government Govern says:

      The opposition does not have a mandate to govern; that’s why they are in opposition. But they do have
      a legislative and oversight responsibility.

      The Elected Government is there to REPRESENT.
      They are elected on the basis of their manifesto.

      Let them REPRESENT.

      Confrontational and adversarial politics do more harm than good for the BVI.

      Everyone in the CARICOM neighbourhood is a competitor …. and we were in tourism and financial services long before them. Now all of
      them have virtually abandoned agriculture and manufacturing.

      WE NEED A 8000′ – 9000′ runway….and now is the time to build a proper runway and not be dependent on St. Thomas and Puerto Rico or Antigua. We have seen, our recovery and evacuation can be hindered by inadequate air access.

      Antigua has lost its quasi aviation hub status to St.Martin and LIAT remains financially challenged.

      We were trying to get commercial aircraft to fly into the 7000′ runway, but it was a limited option
      with certain restrictions. NOW IS THE TIME TO CHOOSE ONE OF THE BETTER OPTIONS THAT WERE PRESENTED TO US….with enhanced safety margins..

      Another reason is we may never have an opportunity like this again to build the appropriate airport facilities.

      REASONS:
      THE FUNDING APPEARS WITHIN GRASP
      THE UK ALREADY APPROVED ACCESS

      IT MAY ALSO BE OPPORTUNE.. AS THE SAME
      COMPANY WITH THE WINNING BID TO BUILD
      OUR AIRPORT HAS BOUGHT OUT THE CANADIAN
      COMPANY CONTRACTED TO REBUILD THE BERMUDA
      ULTRA MODERN AIRPORT.

      HENCE THERE IS STILL THE POSSIBILITY OF A
      CONCESSION WITH A COMPANY SUCH AS AECON
      THE CANADIAN COMPANY THAT WILL OPERATE
      THE BERMUDA AIRPORT FOR 35 YRS.

      THE CANADIAN PROFESSIONAL AND TECNICAL
      TEAMS WILL REMAIN IN PLACE AND ARE NOT
      AFFECTED BY THE NEW OWNERSHIP STRUCTURE.

      2. OUR TIME HORIZON FOR INVESTMENTS OF THIS
      MAGNITUDE IS AT LEAST 50 YRS. WE THEREFORE
      SHOULD NOT BE THINKING PRIMARILY ABOUT
      TODAY’S MARKETS BUT TOMORROW’S MARKETS
      IN ASIA AND ELSEWHERE.

      ALL THE MAJOR INVESTMENTS IN INFRASTRUCTURE
      IN THE REGION ARE COMING FROM ASIA….
      AND THE TRANSITION TO A CONSUMER BASED
      ECONOMY SUPPORTED BY A STRONG MIDDLE CLASS
      WITH ADEQUATE DISPOSABLE INCOME AUGERS WELL
      CHINA IS ALSO NOW MANUFACTURING COMMERCIAL
      AIRCRAFT TO SERVICE DOMESTIC AND INTER=
      NATIONAL ROUTES.

      3. ST.KITTS, ANTIGUA,GRENADA, ST.MARTIN,
      ARE BECOMING INCREASINGLY STRONGER
      COMPETITORS….Turks and Caicos….
      WE WERE MARKET LEADERS IN THE TOURISM
      SPACE BEFORE … BUT WE ARE LOSING GROUND
      TO NEW ENTRANTS.

      4. OUR POLICY WAS TO DEVELOP THE MARINE
      SECTOR INITIALLY, FOLLOWED BY INNS AND
      VILLAS, THEN A FEW BOUTIQUE RESORTS.

      5. WE NEED NOW TO ENHANCE AND EXPAND OUR
      SHORE SIDE HOTEL ACCOMMODATIONS ……

      6. WE MUST STOP SHOOTING OURSELVES IN THE
      FOOT WHILE OTHER COUNTRIES GALLOP PAST
      US.

      7. BARBADOS, USVI, JAMAICA, ANTIGUA, ST.KITTS
      TRINIDAD, GRENADA, have entered THE
      FINANCIAL SERVICES ARENA……

      WHAT ARE WE WAITING FOR? BVI STOP SQUABBLING AND
      LOOKING FOR SCORING POLITICAL POINTS WHILE WE MISS
      OUT ON ONCE IN A LIFETIME OPPORTUNITIES.

      • Albion says:

        Let the Government govern? The same Government that went 300% over budget and delivered the hospital 10 years late? The same Government that delivered the Pier Park a year late and 86% over budget?

        Our Government is just a legacy of incompetence and waste on large infrastructure projects. We need to watch them like hawks!

        • White Elephants says:

          Let’s be honest. A lot of people believe the runway extension was political tribute that would be bestowed for the benifit of mega luxury property developers who are catering to potential buyers who can’t afford their own private jets and consequently have to charter their private jets. It’s the chartered private jet companies that require the longer runway. Those promoting the runway expansion have yet to identify a single commercial airline who has made a commitment to use it. What about a new ferry dock that we all can use?

        • @Albion says:

          This pier park over-run talk is nonsense. The park had variations and did come in at an increased cost but not 86%. This thing being thrown around is because Hugh Darley said he could build it for a certain amount and you guys foolishly believed his nonsense. Look around and tell me who you see build a pier/dock for under $30 mil. That is the dock alone! We complained about the pier park, Hospital and crafts alive but guess what? They stood up to Irma so perhaps they were well worth the money!!!!

    • Agree with bystander says:

      Why not put a fraction of that money into building two state of the art ferry terminals with efficient customs and immigration sections. Then provide a government ferry service that coordinates with the flights into STT?!?

    • John Knauss says:

      Bobby Hodge has the ferry boats and they are beautiful. Actually, sit down with the airlines. Coordinate ferry times with aircraft arrivals…work with a proper tourism firm to book complete round trip service – departure locale to BVI and back. Make it easy and cost effective to come here. Bobby has invested HIS MONEY. Now we should all help him succeed. It’s not “nuclear science”. It’s taking care of customers wants/needs and aggressively (properly) marketing and promoting the availability of the service.

  8. Thoughtful Sailor says:

    BVI Airways had a good idea, even if they were incapable of pulling it off. It would have been a great compromise. Spend a fraction of the expansion money and buy them out. If BVI Airways had a sustainable business model, the BVI could do it on its own.

  9. Political Observer (PO) says:

    The BVI economy, especially the tourism sector, was devastated by two category 5 hurricanes-Irma and Maria. The hurricanes damaged personal property, infrastructure(road, ports, electricity, water, sewage, telecommunications), businesses, General government buildings, schools, attractions, public safety facilities (police stations, fire stations, prison, disaster preparedness building), medical facilities…….etc.

    Further, hundred of millions of dollars is needed to meet critical needs; enough funding is not available to meet crirical needs. Some critical need projects will have to be deferred. And extending the airport is a want, not a critical need. It should not be on the recovery plan. Why is government pushing this project as a high priority?

    This project is not being embraced by a majority of residents, taxpayers, yet it keeps floating to the top of project listings. Why? Is self interest trumping public interest? Further, selected bid for the construction was for $153M. Now, the cost is $250M, a whopping 63% increase. What is driving the cost increase? Is it inflation, scope increase, anticipated change orders, latent defects and unforeseen conditions, low ball bid by contractor, typical project outcomes in BVI…….etc?

    On another airlift note, government invested $7.2M on BVI Airways, a bruk airline, to start flying directly from Miami, Fl to Beef Island. It was a controversial decision with funding not being appropriated by the HOA. BVI Airways aircrafts supposedly will not require extending the runway. What is the timeline for flights starting? Along with this unpopular action, in the near term, government should invest on marine ports, ie, Road Town, West End….etc, and modernize the ferry system to transport passengers to and from St. Thomas. This is a win-win for both VI and USVI. This arrangement is similar to what Anguilla, another OT, has with St. Martin. National pride is one thing but affordability is another.

  10. Hmmm says:

    Take my word do this airport at this time n ndp sink further never to return. The people need help focus on ur people n ur infrostructure amend laws. No big project needed now

  11. Ralph says:

    The Cubans could extend the airport for far less costs.

    They built two large airports in Grenada and St. Vincent.

    Why are we afraid of going that route?

    Anti-communism?

    • Honestly curious says:

      Is it just an extension to the runway? For not much more than is being proposed here St. Vincent built a brand new airport, (from scratch), where they had to cut away a hill, build the runway out into the sea, (like they will have to at Beef Island), Terminal and all. This airport and runway is big enough to accomodate commercial jets from the US. And their project was rife with inefficiencies and suspected corruption. This is why I’m hoping someone can tell me if there is more to it than just an extension to the runway? It would seem to me that there must be more to it than that for this kind of money.

  12. sam the man says:

    It’s clear the NDP will pursue this misguided scheme regardless – they never listen to reason… it’s another opportunity for the ministers

  13. Albion says:

    It should come as a surprise to nobody that the cost of the airport has already started to balloon before they even start.

    If anyone thinks that this is the last time the price will go up before the final bill becomes due, then they are also kidding themselves.

  14. vision eye says:

    Ferry Terminals first is to rebuild .well plan build terminals at west end ,ROAD TOWN and at TRELLIS BAY .

  15. Truth says:

    The ferry option is only a REAL OPTION if the Government subsidizes it like St John and have PROPER ferries and a PROPER schedule. Trying to expand using the current model is bound for failure, let’s stop fooling ourselves. Unless the Government can control it then it makes no damn sense because these companies do what the hell they want anyway. They decide to go against their published schedules with no recourse, they run old piece of shyte boats on routes and so on. The ferry option is tiring and if we want to rely more on them the entire system needs to be rehashed.

  16. Greivin says:

    As much as I would like my direct flights from London to EIS it would take a long time before BVI had accomodation levels to service the thousands of new arrivals such a runway could in theory provide, if ever. So the $250M makes existing tourists lives easier but struggles to make true positive impact because of lack of somewhere to stay.

    Will BVI become a high rise, low quality tourist destination like St M?

    Bystander seems to have hit the nail on the head, better/more/easier connections from USVI, Puerto Rico, Antigua, St K and St M would be a cheaper option at this stage allowing more Govt funds to be spent on rebuilding BVI better than before which benefits locals and tourists alike.

  17. sam the man says:

    A runway extension is madness – NDP are clueless as to where the priorities lie – upgrade/improve west End ferry terminal so that people can access the St Thomas larger runway.. but ministers want their share of the pie…so madness will continue

  18. wait and see says:

    DR. THE AIRPORT IS NEEDED SO GO FOR IT. THOSE WHO CANT SEE WILL ONE DAY REALIZE IT. JUST LIKE THE OTHER PROJECTS THAT THEY HAD OBJECTIONS TO

  19. Spence says:

    …going to kill the goose that laid the golden egg— tourists are visiting to enjoy the island culture- if you create another Miami they Will go elsewhere—-

  20. BuzzBvi says:

    Cuba would not tolerate kick back corruption.

  21. RebuildTime says:

    Yes it’s is a good idea to expand, but the sad truth is that the country is in a state of disaster. Roads need to be fixed and not patching them. Ghuts need a new design to prevent future flood. Schools needs to be rebuild. Entry ports like the ferry docks need drastic repair. Why not concentrate in one thing at a time. Further the government has a property that can be an incentive for tourist to come and stay in the territory. Prospect Reef, why not rebuild that property to a five star hotel like other islands. The ugly truth is that the lack of thinking in our government is the reason for the way this country is. The powers have no real interest but the interest of their own pockets. We the people are also at fault because we allow this to happen without any accountability. As the richest Caribbean island in GDP, were are the emergency funds? We are in a high hurricane risk area and the government has never initiated a rebuild fund for situation like this? Imagine if the government really cared we would not have to rely on anyone to rebuild. Now we are running around like chickens without heads looking for funds. Where is the $15 million to help residents rebuild? Where is their strong hand to push insurance companies to pay their customers? No accountability at all and the ugly truth is we are also at fault for not speaking out.

  22. Deja vu says:

    So for such an enormous figure I hope that this time there will be published accounts and full transparency.

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