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Estimate of $3.5 billion for buildup preparations

By Connor Murphy

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, April 1, 2009) – More than twice as much traffic soon will be traveling Guam's roads, and it will cost $3.5 billion to prepare those roads.

Officials from the Department of Public Works and its consulting firms yesterday gave industry representatives a look at plans for Guam's roads and public transit, as the island gears up for the historic military buildup.

The military plans to move 8,000 Marines, as well as their 9,000 dependents here by 2014, requiring a new Marine base and the expansion of virtually all infrastructure on island.

Roadways and transit account for more than half of the estimated $5 billion cost to prepare the island's infrastructure and utilities.

If no road work is done, Guam would be looking at travel delays being five times as long as they are today, said Lee Gibson from consultants Parsons Brinckerhoff.

The planned work will cut that by half, he said.

Most of the work will be paid for through federal funds, Department of Public Works Director Larry Perez said at the Guam Industry Forum on Wednesday. The department is looking at $1.6 billion from the Federal Highway Administration and $1.5 billion from the Department of Defense, he said.

He noted that $260 million would have to come from the government of Guam for village streets.

Much of the work will be done to improve what officials are calling the haul road network, or the streets that heavy trucks would take from the port to development in the north.

The work on this network replaces officials' earlier idea to build a new high-capacity north-south road.

About $90 million in projects already have been started to improve island roadways, Perez said.

New buses, bus stops

The buildup will require a significant increase in the island's mass transit system, officials said.

"Guam is at a point where public transportation is going to be a more important part of the mix," Gibson said.

Lawmakers earlier this year reestablished the Guam Mass Transit Authority, after abolishing it in 2003 and since then contracting private companies to provide services.

Perez said the department has identified $138 million for transit improvements from the Federal Transportation Administration and the government of Guam.

Plans are in the works to install public bus stops, five new routes and 50 new vehicles, Gibson said. Toward the end of the buildup, high-capacity transit on Marine Corps Drive could be possible, he added.

In addition, federal contracts would require employers to provide shuttles for their workers, Perez added.

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