Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that by a vote of 357 to 65 the House passed H.R. 3550, the Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (TEA-LU) which increases federal highway funding for the Territories and includes an additional $14 million for village road and other improvements in American Samoa. The Senate has already passed its version of TEA-LU and the bill will now go to conference in May after which time it is expected that the President will sign it into law.
Once signed into law, 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%.
“In addition to our share of funds from the Territorial Highway Program, American Samoa will receive an extra $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. At this time, I want to thank my good friends, Chairman Don Young and Ranking Member Jim Oberstar, of the House Transportation Committee for agreeing to my requests to increase American Samoa’s annual funding and to include an extra $14 million for our village road improvements and other high priority projects,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“Regarding our funding, I believe it is important to explain how Congress authorizes transportation funds. Simply put, a federal gas tax is collected nationally to fund the transportation bill. Residents of American Samoa and other territories are not required to contribute to this fund or pay federal gas taxes. Although we pay no federal gas taxes, Congress provides for our transportation needs by way of a direct-set aside for the Territories and this is known as the Territorial Highway Program.”
“Since 1992, American Samoa has received more than $77 million in federal highway transportation funds including $12 million I obtained in 1998 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 I was able to get $12 million for Village Road Development on the islands of Tutuila and Manu’a.”
“This was the first time that Congress ever agreed to let federal highway funds be used for constructing roads that are not part of the federal highway system and I am pleased that Congress acted favorably on my request. The 1998 Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century is now expiring and Congress is reauthorizing funds for the next six years. As of today, the House has now agreed to support my request to provide American Samoa with an additional $14 million over the next six years for village roads and other transportation improvements.”
“In consultation with Governor Togiola, 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 Nuuli council of chiefs, we have set aside $1 million for shoreline protection and drainage mitigation for Nuuli 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. Again, Governor Togiola and I thank our local leaders for their support of this historic and important initiative.”
“I also thank Chairman Don Young (Republican from Alaska) and Ranking Member Jim Oberstar (Democrat from Minnesota) of the House Committee on Transportation as well as the Honorable Nick Rahall, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Resources, for their support of increased funding for the Territories. I also commend Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo (Guam) and Congresswoman Donna Christensen (VI) who have also worked tirelessly to increase funds for the Territorial Highway Program.”
“Out of 422 members of the House who voted today, 357 overwhelmingly voted to support this historic legislation. In other words, it’s not about whose in the majority. It takes both Democrats and Republicans to get the job done. It also takes seniority and this is why I am thankful that the people of American Samoa have trusted me time and time again to get the job done for them. With your continued support and prayers, I am hopeful that our increases and add-ons will be supported when the House and Senate meet in May to conference this bill,” the Congressman concluded.