LONG-AWAITED AIRPORT ROAD PROJECT BREAKS GROUND
A group of government officials and the prerequisite preacher held a forty-five minute service to break ground on the Airport Road Project Thursday morning in front of Samoa NAPA.
Public Works Director Taeaotui Punaofo Tilei called the project "one of the longest and hardest to negotiate" involving families that own the land needed for the extra lanes from the Nuuuli - Leone Intersection to the Airport. It took 5 to 6 years to reach this milestone.
The Federal Highway Administration also required numerous public hearings to ensure the land use issues were under control and all parties involved were on the same page.
Negotiations were further complicated by having to find the various branches of the families involved. “We had to approach the most senior members of the families at their homes, to secure their approval for the project to proceed… And yet, up till now, I am still not sure if we’ll be able to pull through with our four lanes or if the project's specifications will remain as is,” said Taeaotui.
FHwA's Mr. John Nickelson who assesses the territory's annual funding for highway projects was acknowledged as were local Public Works personnel of the Highway division. DPW engineers designed the drainage system and road, including four roundabouts for all the project's intersections.
Before sitting down, Taeaotui joked “Of all the many names the public has called me because of the poor condition of our territory's roads, my favorite is “the Good, the Bad and the Ugly!” To the public servants who cannot answer the phone calls from the complainers — you are beyond repairs!”
Nickelson spoke of the work done behind closed doors to start construction. “Let us not be too inappreciative of the hard work that goes on behind the scene between me, the governor, Punaofo and Sina, we are making progress everyday!”
“One thing new on this project is the first construction job to be done by a new local company to the trade. It is good and hopefully their new construction skills add to the hard work to make better roads.”
Whitehorn Construction, with local offices, won the bid to construct the last two phases of the Airport Road for $7 million, several million below the original cost estimated by PWD engineers.
“They have a big task ahead of them, they have to get the right materials from far away off-island suppliers. Hopefully, our new contractor knows and is ready for that!” said Nickelson.
It should be noted that to date, Whitehorn Construction does not have a working asphalt plant here on island and will need one to keep within their budgeted $7 million and to complete the contract. The only asphalt plant on island is operated by McConnell Dowel who lost the bid to Whitehorn.
Governor Tulafono told the gathering the project was delayed due to insufficient funding. FHwA's annual budget for our roads is $4 million. Funds compiled from 2011 and 2012 are the funding source for this project and acknowledged Nickelson as the main force in securing that funding.
He congratulated the contractor as a daughter of American Samoa from Leone, Crystal Whitehorn, who returned home with skills to help build our homeland roads. “Mrs. Whitehorn, thanks for returning to share your expertise, complete the necessary paperwork and send it to my desk.”
He referred to the $9 million FHwA funding being scrutinized in campaign speeches, “If you are not looking at the many construction works being dedicated, from sea walls to buildings to roads, you must be blind or even worse, mentally blind!”
Fifteen ASG officials, Nu’uuli Representatives, Nu’uuli council members and Rev. Viliamu Leilua then broke ground to resume phases 2&3 of the Airport Road Project.