Congressman Faleomavaega announced that the House Committee on Transportation agreed yesterday to increase federal highway funding for the Territories and include $14 million for village road and other improvements in American Samoa.
“Although this bill still must pass the House and Senate, I am pleased that my good friends Chairman Don Young and Ranking Member Jim Oberstar of the House Transportation Committee have agreed to increase transportation funding for the Territories,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo (Guam), Congresswoman Donna Christensen (VI) and I have worked on this issue for the past year and Congressman Nick Rahall, Ranking Member of the House Resources Committee, has supported our efforts.”
“As a result of our work, the Territorial Highway Program (which includes American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and CNMI) will be increased from $33 million to $40 million for FY 04, FY05 and FY 06. For FY07, FY08 and FY09, funding will increase to $50 million. Despite the Transportation Act (now known as TEA-LU) being $100 billion less than what was originally proposed, the Territorial set aside will increase by 23.6%.”
“Moreover, American Samoa will receive $14 million for high priority projects including village road improvements, drainage mitigation, shoreline protection and upgrades and repairs of the Ta’u ferry terminal facility. On January 23, 2004, I called Governor Togiola to let him know that the Committee had informed me of its intentions and asked that we keep this information confidential until the Committee held its mark-up. The Committee originally intended to hold its mark-up in February but postponed it until March 24, 2004.”
“On February 4, 2004, I also wrote to Governor Togiola in response to his January 15, 2004 letter to me. In my letter, I explained that from 1992 to 2003 American Samoa received over $77 million in federal highway funds including $12 million I obtained to improve village roads in American Samoa.”
“Roads that are not part of the federal highway system are ineligible for funding. This rule applies to every state and territory and includes our village roads. Be that as it may, I fought hard to convince my colleagues that an exception should be made for American Samoa and in 1998 they agreed to support my request for $12 million for village road improvements.”
“The 1998 Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century is now expiring and Congress is reauthorizing funds for the next six years. Again, the House Transportation Committee has agreed to my request for additional funds for American Samoa. On March 5, 2003, the House Committee on Transportation notified members of Congress that it would accept written and oral testimony regarding requests for funding. On March 5, 2003, I wrote Governor Sunia and requested his input. Although I did not hear back from Governor Sunia, I testified and appeared before the Committee.”
“Initially, I requested money for a ferry boat and terminal construction as well as funding for our village roads. However, since September 2003, Governor Togiola and I have worked together to obtain funding for the purchase of a vessel for Manu’a and on January 22, 2004, the House Committee on Transportation informed me that it would be able to grant $14 million of my requests for highway projects in American Samoa. This funding is in addition to our annual federal highway funds.”
“In consultation with the Governor, we have set aside $9.4 million for village road improvements in the Eastern, Western, Central and Manu’a districts of American Samoa. In further consultation with Senator Tuaolo Fruean and High Paramount Chief Mauga and members of the Pago Pago council of chiefs, we have also set aside $1 million for drainage mitigation for Pago Pago village roads.”
“In consultation with Senator Tago Suilefaiga, Representative Fagasoaia Lealaitafea and Representative Mary Taufete’e and members of the Nu'uuli council of chiefs, we have set aside $1 million for shoreline protection and drainage mitigation for Nu'uuli village roads. In consultation with Senator Faamausili Pola and members of the Ta’u village council of chiefs, we have set aside $1.6 million to upgrade and repair the Ta’u harbor facility.”
“Finally, in consultation with Senator Faiivae Galea’i, Senator Lualemaga Faoa and members of the Leone and Malaeloa councils of chiefs, we have set aside $1 million for drainage mitigation for Malaeloa-Leone village roads. Governor Togiola and I thank our local leaders for their support of this historic and important initiative and we are hopeful that the House and Senate will pass this legislation before the 108th Congress adjourns,” the Congressman concluded.