The Commonwealth Office of Transit Authority is finally moving forward after obtaining a $1.1 million grant from the Federal Transit Authority.
The funds will be used for operating and maintenance expenses that include the recruitment of five key staff coordinators. The five new COTA staff, together with Special Assistant for Public Transportation Thomas J. Camacho, make up the core team of the CNMI's first Office of Transit Authority personnel.
The staff and the Commonwealth Public Transportation advisory board were briefed on their duties and responsibilities in an orientation last week. The Commonwealth Public Transportation advisory board also had its first meeting last week to adopt the fiscal year 2013 non-urbanized formula grant in the amount of $892,170. The 2013 operating budget will finance additional transportation plans, renovation of an existing warehouse for vehicle maintenance, repair and storage; at least 30 low-cost ADA compliant bus stops for the Saipan Fixed-Flex Route system, staff training on environmental management, and administrative costs.
CPTAB is composed of 11 individuals that include the representatives of mayors of each senatorial district, police commissioner, Finance secretary, Public Works secretary, the Public School System, Emergency Management Office, and a representative from the business community.
Camacho informed members of COTA's proposed two-year lease for an office space on the second floor of the NMI Retirement Fund building that will house the One-Call/One-Click Transportation Information & Resource Service Center, design and construction of COTA's new Administration Building, which will house the permanent home of the One-Call/One-Click Center, design and development of the Saipan Fixed-Flex Route & Para-Transit System, requisition of four mini buses for the Saipan Fixed-Flex Route System, and design and development of COTA's website (www.cota.gov.mp/).
Members were also updated on the proposed Ferry Boat Feasibility Study being undertaken by DPW’s Federal Highway Program. If the study suggests the need for an interisland ferry boat system, COTA will take the lead in applying for discretionary and formula funds from FTA for the requisition or construction of ferry boats and terminal facilities.
"I'm very pleased and relieved now that I have the right team of personnel and a functioning board to assist me in carrying out the local and federal mandates of a public transit authority as well as making sound decisions affecting the organization,” said Camacho.
Former representative Clyde Norita first introduced the public transit bill in the 14th Legislature, followed by former representative, now senator, Ray Yumul. Norita's version passed both houses, but then governor Juan N. Babauta vetoed it while Yumul's version never made it out of the House committee.
"However, with Yumul’s persistency and commitment, he introduced HB 17-43 in the 17th Legislature, it passed both houses with amendments and was signed into law by the Gov. Benigno R. Fitial in May 2011, known today as P.L. 17-43,” said Camacho. (Office of the Governor)