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DPW on horrid roads: “It comes down to funding”

fili@samoanews.com

Department of Public Works deputy director Faleosina Voight has responded to Rep. Larry’s Sanitoa’s request for information on the status of road projects, especially those in the Tualauta county.

Sanitoa ended up sending an e-mail letter to Voight after getting a reply on Monday from DPW director Taeaotui Punaofo Tilei, who stated that nothing is going to happen to these pending projects any time soon.

One of the issues raised by Sanitoa with Taeaotui is whether DPW has an emergency plan for a temporary fix to the deplorable road conditions, aside from filing the potholes with dirt.

In Voight’s response to Sanitoa, the DPW deputy director of civil/highway division wrote that the department “has considered all avenues, both temporary and long term solutions, in addressing these problem areas and it comes down to funding.”

She says that most of these concerns can be addressed using the ASG Road Maintenance Fund account, but funding is limited.  Additionally, U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) funds cannot be utilized, unless these projects are already on the Territory Transportation Improvement Program (TTIP)

“Now, that we have the newly approved Transportation bill - which expires Sept. 2014 - DPW is developing the TTIP for projects to be funded for FY2013 and FY2014 worth $4 million  per fiscal year under the FHWA highway program,” she said.

(A complete list of TTIp projects was advertised this week in the Samoa News)

Voight explained that when Taeaotui mentioned “not anytime soon” it is because, to develop these projects under the FHWA highway program, it is going to take some time” to process the TTIP - such as the the design, land use permit and other applicable permits,  bidding process and construction phase.

Sanitoa was also informed that DPW had already secured a purchase order for 100 tons of hot asphalt and is working with McConnell Dowell for a supply when it becomes available.

Voight revealed that McConnell Dowell is finishing up the Futiga route 01 resurface infront of CCCAS Futiga, which is funded under Road Maintenance Funds, but the company is out of bitumen and shipment “should be in sometime” this week before they complete the Futiga resurface.

“Hopefully then, we can get our hot asphalt for pothole patching for the other road areas. In the meantime, the best we could do is to fill the potholes temporarily with fill material,” she pointed out.

For a permanent solution, she said DPW is developing the TTIP as a requirement to include these improvements for FHWA road program. She pointed out that a majority of the federal funds - for FY2011 and 2012 - have been obligated to the major airport road project under contract with Whitehorn Construction.

Meanwhile, she said DPW hopes to work with the new administration and the Fono to address the road maintenance funds. “Since we receive 100% of federal funds in road improvement projects,  the local government is responsible for the maintenance,” she explained.

“Road maintenance funds are based on 10 cents for every dollar of gas tax. This has not changed over 20 years.  Yet, construction costs—material and equipment— have increased.  An increase in road maintenance funds is needed to address the road maintenance and repair as required,” she added.

Responding to Voight, Sanitoa said he will look into the road maintenance fund and other possible revenue measures to assist DPW in the next legislative session.

He asked DPW to review what can be done to expedite the temporary patching for several of those serious pothole littered roads once hot asphalt becomes available.



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