Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that by a vote of 417 to 9 the House passed H.R. 3, the Transportation Equity Act, which included Faleomavaega’s request to set aside $16 million for village roads and other transportation projects in American Samoa. On March 2, 2005, the Committee on Transportation also approved Faleomavaega’s request. The House and Senate must now conference their bills before this legislation becomes law but it is in anticipated that this will happen in the near future.
“At this time, I wish to thank Chairman Don Young and Ranking Member Jim Oberstar of the Committee on Transportation for supporting my request to set-aside $16 million for high priority projects in American Samoa,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “This funding is in addition to American Samoa’s annual federal highway funds and will be used for village road improvements, drainage mitigation, shoreline protection and upgrades and repairs of the Ta’u ferry terminal facility.”
“In consultation with the Honorable Togiola Tulafono, Governor of American Samoa, we have set aside $10 million for village road improvements in the Eastern, Western, Central and Manu’a districts of American Samoa.”
“In consultation with Senator Tuaolo Fruean and High Paramount Chief Mauga and members of the Pago Pago council of chiefs, we have set aside $1 million for drainage mitigation for Pago Pago village roads.”
“In consultation with Senator Tago S. Afeleti, 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 Faiivae Galea’i, Senator Lualemaga Faoa and members of the Leone and Malaeloa councils of chiefs, we have set aside $1.4 million for drainage mitigation for Malaeloa-Leone village roads.”
“In consultation with Senator Liufau Sonoma and Representative Paopao Fiaui, we have set aside $1 million for Aua village.”
“In consultation with former 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.”
“Like other insular areas, American Samoa will continue to receive its annual share of federal dollars,” 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.”
“The Territorial Highway Program includes American Samoa, Guam, the Virgin Islands and CNMI. Based on population, area, road mileage, or any combination of these factors, each Territory receives a portion of the funds allocated to the Territorial Highway Program. Since 1995, American Samoa has received more than $95 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,” the Congressman said, “and I am pleased that Congress acted favorably on my request.”
“The 1998 Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century has now expired and Congress is in the process of reauthorizing funds for the next six years. As of today, the House has agreed to support my request to provide American Samoa with an additional $16 million over the next six years for village roads and other transportation improvements.”
“The Territorial Highway Program (which includes American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and CNMI) will also be increased from $36.4 million to $40 million for FY 04, FY 05, and FY 06 and $50 million for FY 07, FY 08, and FY 09. This represents a $51.6 million increase and a total of $270 million over a six-year period.”
“Again, I thank Chairman Young and Ranking Member Oberstar for supporting my efforts to make sure that American Samoa’s needs are addressed in this historic and important initiative. I also make note that out of 426 Members of the House who voted today, 417 overwhelming voted to support this legislation. In other words, it takes both Democrats and Republicans to get the job done. More importantly, it takes your support and prayers. This is why I extend to the people of American Samoa my personal thanks and deepest appreciation. Together, we are making a difference,” the Congressman concluded.