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By Aldwin R. Fajardo Staff Reporter

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (October 11, 2000 – Saipan Tribune)---Construction of the Rota International Airport runway is expected to kick off in January 2001, after the Commonwealth Ports Authority completed looking at the submitted proposals for the island's air transport facility rehabilitation project.

Offering to undertake the project at a cost of $2.79 million, Nippon Hodo Construction Limited emerged as the apparent low bidder. Its bid includes remarking, regrooving and rehabilitation works at the island's airport runway.

The second lowest bid was offered by Western Equipment Incorporated, which proposed to carry out the project at a cost of $2.9 million.

Executive Director Carlos H. Salas is optimistic the process of completing the necessary documents and all review proceedings will be completed in a month, although CPA has at least 90 days to look at the bid proposals before awarding the contract.

The Rota International Airport runway rehabilitation is financed through Capital Improvement Project funds, with up to $450,000 in appropriations from the Federal Aviation Administration's airport improvement plan.

While the use of the money has already been approved, CPA is awaiting authorization from the Department of the Interior and the official grant notification from the FAA.

If projections to begin construction push through in January 2001, Rota will have a refurbished and improved runway by July next year, according to Mr. Salas.

Mayor Benjamin T. Manglona has been persistently clamoring for CPA to expedite the bidding process for the rehabilitation of the island's airport runway, which was recently given the go-signal by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Mr. Manglona previously told CPA officials that the airport runway improvement project remains the local government's number one priority. "We must get the project constructed. We cannot wait any longer. We are losing our patience."

The mayor said fast-tracked completion of the Rota International Airport's runway would provide the needed boost to the island's tourism industry, thereby allowing the growth of its sleepy economy.

The mayor emphasized that prospects are bright for the island's economic program, which is not expected to take off unless Rota's air transportation woes, including absence of sufficient infrastructure, are addressed.

He added that jet service to and from the island would only become possible if and when airport runway and terminal facilities are rehabilitated and improved, thereby securing the safety of incoming and outgoing passengers.

FAA's approval of the project is expected to hasten the repair and improvement of the island's air transport facility, a project that has been aggressively pushed by Mr. Manglona, who had brought his concerns to the attention of the United States Congress and the federal transportation department.

The project, which has been previously stalled due to lack of funding, is aimed at improving the skid resistance of the Rota International Airport runway, especially during the rainy season.

The need for rehabilitation of the Rota airport's runway was first raised when Continental Micronesia permanently suspended Boeing 727 jet service to the island, citing low braking effectiveness.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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