After months of weekly meetings and working sessions with CNMI agencies and federal partners, the CNMI Highway Taskforce, established by Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios, announced yesterday that the Federal Highway Administration (Hawaii) and the Office of Insular Affairs have now authorized the Commonwealth to proceed with an “Invitation to Bid” to upgrade Beach Road from As Perdido to Oleai/San Jose.
“This project is the beginning of what will be a long, overdue improvement on Beach Road. After so many years of numerous patch works, we are finally going make the much needed reconstruction, improvements, and expansion in one of Saipan’s main thoroughfares,” said Palacios.
Acting Public Works secretary Antonio Camacho said the project improvements under what’s called as Phase II will include the reconstruction of existing roadways such as new asphalt concrete pavement with dense graded anti-skid features, including pavement markings, road shoulders, drainage systems, driveway connections, and traffic signs.
“These will improve safety and visibility for all motorists,” Camacho said.
Bike lanes and sidewalks will also be installed. These, said Public Works Highway administrator Lorraine Villagomez, will benefit individuals “placing focus on their health and prioritizing a healthier lifestyle”—particularly important in the time of the pandemic.
Palacios noted that the collaborative efforts of many individuals from several CNMI agencies have been exploring engineering, funding, and permitting considerations to plan and implement several important highway projects. “We all drive the same roads and understand the need for improvements,” he said. “The need to align current projects with available funding sources has been a critical component of the overall effort of the CNMI Highway Task Force.”
He pointed out that while the upgrade of Airport Road was the first project of highway improvements to be completed, the Cross Island Road (Talofofo) is now ongoing. The Beach Road Phase II Project is presently in the bidding process and the project itself will most likely begin in late December of this year or January 2022.
The CNMI Highway Task Force members include Public Works Technical Services Division civil engineers Henry Bautista and Isagani Salazar and Elizabeth Balajadia of the Capital Improvements Program who streamlined plans and funding with the Federal Highway Administration, OIA, Economic Development Administration, CNMI Department of Finance, and the Northern Marianas Housing Corp. using portions of the American Rescue Plan Act and the Community Development Block Grant–Disaster Relief.
“These highway projects did take time because there is so much involved, including engineering design, funding, and federal and local permitting processes,” Camacho said, “and we ask that our community remains patient once construction starts.”
Palacios emphasized that cooperation among colleagues was crucial to assembling the required funding and meeting the requirements of the NEPA Process. “Working together, we can accomplish a lot,” he said. (PR)