Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Federal Transit Administration Region 9 administrator Ray Tellis led the ribbon-cutting yesterday morning to officially unveil the state-of-the-art Administration and Maintenance Facility building of the Commonwealth Office of Transit Authority in Lower Base.
In his remarks, Torres lauded the role that Alfreda Camacho Maratita played as special assistant for public transportation, when she was appointed to lead COTA soon after COTA administrator Thomas J. Camacho passed away.
Torres said leaders are tested not on good times, but during challenging times and that Maratita definitely stepped up to the plate at a time when the CNMI needed COTA the most.
The governor also commended COTA staff. “You guys, the employees, all of you, make the people here enjoy utilizing public transportation,” he said. “The shirt that you wear represents public service. You definitely deliver that, not just on good times but definitely during our COVID, the most challenging time for the CNMI.”
Torres said it is great pleasure and honor to have Tellis present at the ceremony. Tellis himself said he is honored to be present on behalf of FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez to join the ribbon-cutting event.
Tellis said the day marks a special occasion for everyone in the CNMI, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s FTA, and all the United States in support of public transportation, especially in the Pacific region. He said COTA has come a long way, building its surface transportation services these past nine years.
“I am truly impressed with the many successful outcomes—particularly with this beautiful facility behind me,” Tellis said.
He said this state-of-the-art facility project is the first of its kind amongst the Pacific U.S. territories, made noteworthy in that it is led by a woman executive. Tellis said the Biden-Harris administration is focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
He said the opening of the COTA Administration & Maintenance Facility was achieved thanks to the perseverance of Maratita and her team, which represents a prime example of fulfilling that goal.
“It is our commitment to continue to work closely with the Commonwealth to provide the guidance and support needed to continue the vision of a multi-modal transportation system here in the Northern Mariana Islands,” he said.
Maratita said it was just about two years ago since yesterday, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, that they gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony to kick off this project. Maratita said plans for the building was started in 2013 by her predecessor, the late Thomas J. Camacho, through an FTA competitive grant in the amount of $1.1 million. After the A&E design was completed in 2017, it was discovered that there was a huge shortfall of $3.2 million. She said the only other way was to try and go after another FTA competitive grant.
“And we did just that,” said Maratita, adding that through the FTA’s Bus and Bus Facilities Program, COTA applied for this grant opportunity and was awarded in September 2018 the money needed to fully complete this project.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to the U.S. Department of Transportation: Federal Transit Administration for funding this project at 100% and supporting COTA’s plans to expand public transportation in the CNMI,” she said.
The Department of Public Works was the contracting officer for the project. RNV Construction is the contractor. GHD Inc. was the construction management team.
GHD Inc. Saipan Office manager Andre A. Tenorio discussed what’s inside the state-of-the-art facility.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral rector Fr. Rey D. Rosal blessed the COTA building.