The Associate Administrator of Airports for the Federal Aviation Administration, Shanetta Griffin, is set to pay the CNMI a visit from Aug. 8 through 10 to discuss the much-needed improvements to the CNMI’s airports.
According to Commonwealth Ports Authority chair Kimberlyn King-Hinds, Griffin, who was appointed by President Joe Biden to oversee the $20 billion allocated for infrastructure projects under the U.S. Department of Transportation (specific to airports), is set to arrive on Saipan on Aug. 8 and will be meeting with CPA and the CNMI administration through Aug. 10.
“We are having a very big visit from Shanetta Griffin. This is an opportunity to have a discussion with her about our priorities here at CPA specific to the airport,” she said.
One of the ongoing discussions that will be brought before Griffin, King-Hinds said, is what CPA and the administration should do about the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport’s existing terminal.
“It’s 40 years old, and over the course of these 40 years, there’s been a lot of changes, to include federal requirements as it relates to security, specifically after 9/11. Our infrastructure just wasn’t built to accommodate those additional improvements and so it’s kind of made the flow of the airport traffic within the terminal inefficient. So the discussion that’s being had right now is whether or not we should explore fixing the existing terminal or building a new terminal, and obviously, that comes with a hefty price tag. So the idea basically is to pursue a two-prong approach, which is, one, look at what’s available under the Biden infrastructure law, and then, two, also look at the possibility of entering into a public-private partnership,” she explained.
Aside from CPA and the CNMI administration, community stakeholders will also be present in meetings with Griffin so they could participate in the ongoing discussion on how to improve the Saipan airport terminal, King-Hinds said.
“We’ve identified certain key stakeholders within the community to participate in the deliberation process and to have a very open and transparent discussion as to what the Commonwealth should do, because obviously, this is a long-term investment that needs to be made now. I want this conversation to be driven by the stakeholders, driven by the community,” she said.
According to CPA executive director Chris Tenorio, the CNMI has been coordinating with the FAA Honolulu office about Griffin’s arrival.
“So we’re prepping her arrival on Aug. 8. She’s set to arrive in the morning, and then we have meetings with our board that morning, then in the afternoon we have a meeting with the governor and other stakeholders,” he said.