The Guam Daily Post

12 23Wed12022015


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Back Opinion Highway funds at risk

Highway funds at risk

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WE’VE got to confess some sympathy with the mayors of our villages, who just asked for a little more authority to close village roads for special occasions, without the need to go to the Department of Public Works for a permit every time.

This has been going on for years, but as Guam becomes more and more congested, the rights of drivers and their automobiles are taking over. No longer is it possible to block off a lane or two for a beach event, or close a street for a party, without provoking resentment and even outright anger from those whose vehicular access is affected.

The senators were just trying to help, passing a law to allow for mayors to close roads at their discretion. The bill was signed into law, becoming Public Law 31-188, despite the fact that the director of the Department of Public Works, Joanne Brown, testified and warned against the new law.

In the ensuing public debate, we’ve all learned the difference between “routed” and “un-routed” roads. The former are the numbered roads, Route 1, Route 15, Route 10, etc. These are the highways Uncle Sam helps us to maintain. Everything else falls into the category of village roads or streets.

If the new law had only dealt with the latter, we probably wouldn’t have heard much about it. But in the course of legislative debate, the bill grew from village roads to routed, numbered highways. That prompted the Federal Highway Administration to write to Director Brown, saying the new law conflicts with the Stewardship Agreement between the FHWA and the government of Guam.

Implied was a threat, that if Guam did not rectify the situation and amend the new law to bring it into line, the agency might pull some of the funding it provides to GovGuam for highway maintenance projects. “We will take whatever action we deem appropriate” is how Richelle Takara, transportation engineer for the FHWA, put it.

We didn’t need Ms. Takara to paint us any pictures. Joanne Brown said I told you so, the senators scrambled to modify the new law, and we all began to realize that this business of highways and their maintenance is very big business indeed. Guam gets millions of federal dollars to maintain our routed roads – money we do not have in the DPW budget from local revenue.

Money talks. Big money talks really loudly. So, sorry, mayors, you will have to go back to getting a DPW permit whenever you need to close a routed lane or highway.

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