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By Ferdie de la Torre

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Feb. 15) – The first phase of construction work for the US$12 million Cross Island Road Improvement Project is expected to start next month, according to Department of Public Works Secretary Jose S. Demapan.

In an interview with Saipan Tribune, Demapan disclosed that they had already met with a federal highway representative two weeks ago for the final approval of the plan.

Demapan said they hope to obtain final federal approval for the plan by the end of February.

"We also got the Construction Management Services ready to award for the construction of this first phase and from there we will start," he said.

CMS, the secretary explained, is the consulting company that will be monitoring the project.

"Hopefully, by the first part of next month, the construction will start," Demapan said.

Henry K. Pangelinan Engineering Co. designed phase 1 of the highway construction at the back road.

DPW believes the construction project would help stimulate the CNMI economy.

With the project, DPW expects an increase in economic activity as the road would benefit not only the residents but also tourists, considering there are scenic sites in that location.

Under the federally-funded Cross-Island Project, a three-lane highway will be constructed from San Vicente roundhouse all the way up to Capital Hill.

Phase 1 involves building a road from San Vicente roundhouse up to the Blue Tank in Papago. There would be two lanes going up and one lane going down.

Meanwhile, Demapan stated that negotiation is still ongoing between the CNMI government and the Division of Fish and Wildlife with respect to the $12 million Talafofo Highway Project.

Demapan said the negotiation is focusing on the presence of warbler birds in the area. The bird is an endangered species.

"Once we get that one cleared [environmental assessment], then we would start this project as soon as possible," he said.

DPW expects the Talafofo Highway to cause a big economic impact on the island.

Under the project, a highway will be constructed from the Kingfisher Golf Course area on Capital Hill all the way to Kalabera Cave in Marpi.

"That would be very good scenic place for tourists. It would increase the economic impact on Saipan. There will be more tourists," Demapan earlier stated.

Demapan said many tourists don't visit Kalabera Cave right now because the road is very bad.

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