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Frustrated over roads, faipule appeals to Fed Hiway Admin

Very unhappy with the response from the Department of Public Works over concerns regarding the condition of the local roads — especially in Tualauta county — Rep. Larry Sanitoa has called on the U.S. Federal Highway Administration for an update on the annual funding for the territory.

Sanitoa last week wrote to DPW director Taeaotui Punaofo Tilei seeking a meeting for updates on pending projects for 2012, including the Iliili/Pavaiai resurfacing job going toward Futiga, the Aoloau/Mapusaga Fou Road, the Vaitogi Road, and the Ottoville/Fagaima Road.

The faipule said these roads are in “absolutely deplorable condition” and was hoping that DPW would have an emergency plan for a temporary fix — aside from filing the potholes with dirt. However, he said when the director was contacted on Monday, the response was not pleasing.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t like his (Taeaotui’s) response, saying that ‘nothing will happen anytime soon’ with these projects,” said Sanitoa in an e-mail to another DPW senior official, who was also informed by the faipule that he was writing to Clifford Chew, who is with the Federal Highway Administration office in Honolulu seeking an update on the territory’s federal funds.

(There has been road work going on in Leone and Futiga over the last three weeks — with the ‘worst of the worse’ pothole areas being re-surfaced. However, the work in Futiga looks currently unfinished, with the westbound lane not having its final coat of asphalt. McConnell Dowell vehicles were observed at each of the jobs.)

In his letter on Monday, Sanitoa requested assistance from Chew for any update on American Samoa’s annual Federal Highway allocations, and information on any new Transportation Bill pending in Congress.

At present, the Territory Transportation Improvement Program (TTIP) for FY 2013 and FY 2014 is being advertised by DPW, he said.

“However, given the terrible conditions of our roads, all of the residents are seeking immediate solutions to this long overdue problem,” he wrote and pointed out that Tualauta county, the largest and most populous county, is faced with terrible road conditions.

“The road conditions in the Tualauta Plains area of the territory are at a deplorable state –  more specifically from the central to western part of the island that is densely populated,” he explained. “Residents and commuters are subjected to use hazardous road conditions daily and have launched numerous complaints to our local Department of Public Works to no avail.”

He said his constituents have continuously called, emailed, and even written letters to the newspaper demanding an immediate and permanent fix of the situation.

“The condition of our roads is beyond nuisance. Residents living in these areas have accumulated major property damage costs,” he said. “Aside from this, every day is a potential hazard to both pedestrians and drivers frequenting these dangerous roads as drivers pass and swerve in an attempt to dodge the pothole riddled narrow roads.”

Sanitoa recalled a House committee hearing in September where DPW officials testified that they had forwarded a request for federal funding to the Honolulu office of the Federal Highway Administration, and attempts to get updates from DPW on the status of this request “have been unsuccessful to say the least.”

“Therefore, I am compelled to send this follow-up letter in the hopes that you will look favorably on this urgent matter. If there is any other source of funding for American Samoa to tap into for urban or secondary roads and drainage, it would be greatly appreciated,” he wrote.

Sanitoa will also be forwarding photos of the roads in the areas mentioned, showing their current state.

Copies of the letter were forwarded to DPW, the governor’s office, Interior Department’s field office, Congressman Faleomavaega Eni and other local officials.