The Department of Public Works has come up with a new 20-year CNMI Highway Master Plan that aims to identify and examine transportation-related issues, from mobility and safety to congestion.
DPW Secretary James A. Ada recently informed Senate President Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian) about their move to update the long-range highway master plan.
Ada said the new master plan focuses on strategies for future programming and short-term improvements that can be quickly and effectively implemented, pertaining to automobile travel, public transportation, walking and bicycling, commercial motor vehicles, as well as waterway and aviation facilities.
He also disclosed that they are hosting public involvement meetings for each island, whether it be face to face or virtual in early February 2022. The purpose of the workshops is to gather public feedback about the current state of highways on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota, which will be considered to support the master plan update.
The Rota public workshop has already been done last week at the Rota Mayor’s Office, while the one on Tinian will be held on Feb. 2, 5pm to 7pm, at Tinian High School. The Saipan public workshop will be on Feb. 10, 5pm to 7pm, at the Kagman Community Center.
According the 20-year master plan, DPW collected new traffic count data in the CNMI in June 2021 and it showed a decrease of about 35% in traffic volume levels compared to 2008.
As the economy continues to open up for increasing tourism, and as COVID-19 rates continue to decrease, DPW projects that the traffic volumes will similarly increase.
DPW said that based on long-term tourism growth and historical trends, current traffic volumes with the expected tourism can theoretically be estimated and evaluated for baseline conditions for the purposes of updating the 20-year Highway Master Plan.
Due to the ongoing global pandemic, DPW said, visitorship, tourism and travel conditions are significantly lower in the CNMI.
DPW said that, according to the Marianas Visitors Authority, annual visitor arrival economic indicators report that arrivals in the Marianas between 2008 and 2017 gradually increased, with a spike from 2016 and 2017, and then a decline in visitors since 2017.
Quarterly visitorship over the last couple of years shows the gradual decline, and then the drastic effect that the pandemic has had on visitorship in 2020. However, MVA said, tourism is anticipated to return to pre-pandemic levels in the future.
According to MVA, arrivals grew 75% to 1,107 visitors in September 2021, compared to 130 visitors in September 2020. (Ferdie De La Torre)