Guam Senators Discuss Delayed Tiyan Parkway

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Project
Federal government may pull $5.8 million in funding

By Mark-Alexander Pieper

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, June 4, 2013) – The government of Guam stands to lose $5.8 million in federal funds for the Tiyan Parkway Project if it doesn't buy cliffline properties that federal officials said should have never been given away.

Senators held a special session yesterday, at the request of Gov. Eddie Calvo, to act on Speaker Judith Won Pat's Bill 125, which provides $500,000 to the Department of Public Works to buy Tiyan cliffline land.

Public Works needs the money to buy up to two parcels of private land needed for the parkway project, agency Director Carl Dominguez told lawmakers.

After three hours of debate and a question-and-answer session with a panel of government experts, senators chose to break yesterday and reconvene at 3 p.m. today to possibly act on the bill.

The federal government set aside $5.8 million for the local government to buy airport land needed for the project. But that money has sat for several years as the project has stalled.

Now, the federal government wants assurances -- in form of a purchase of at least one of the private parcels -- that the local government is finally moving forward on the project.

And it needs to know by July, or the federal government will use the money elsewhere, Arthur Clark, the governor's chief policy adviser, told senators.

Cliffside properties

Central Avenue, which runs along the south end of the airport runway, must close because of a runway expansion project. The expanded runway will push a federally mandated safety zone into the intersection of Central Avenue and Route 8.

The Department of Public Works plans to replace the main road through this area with a project known as the Tiyan Parkway, but the agency must acquire land from the airport and other landowners before it can begin construction, officials have said.

There are six landowners who own multiple parcels on the Tiyan cliffline along Sunset Blvd., which runs adjacent to Central Avenue. The local government needs to acquire those parcels.

The Tiyan Parkway project will be split into two phases, the first of which will include construction of a three-lane road and a new Tiyan entrance across from Cars Plus in Maite.

An intersection will be built at the entrance and the road will connect with the existing Tiyan road near the old police headquarters. The first phase is expected to cost roughly $9.9 million and could be complete by the end of 2014 if Public Works can acquire the airport land.

Delays

What has raised the federal government's ire about the delays, is that it contends there should be no private land in Tiyan.

The federal government returned property that was used for the former Naval Air Station Agana to the local government in the late 1990s.

Its aim was for the local government to build a road through the area. But in 2004, lawmakers chose to return the land to previous owners.

The Federal Highway Administration in 2006 told then-Gov. Felix Camacho it considered the transfer of the cliffside land to private landowners illegal.

Comply or lose

In recent years, the government has moved to comply with the federal orders to build the road. Otherwise it would risk losing federal money for various projects.

But getting the property back from the private landowners has been difficult.

Once land issues are resolved and the local government has an agreement with the federal government, the Guam Economic Development Authority can float, market, sell and close on a bond within 60 days, GEDA officials have said. The bond will be used to pay for the Tiyan Parkway Project and will be paid off with federal funds.

Payment source

The local government has spoken with private landowners about buying their properties. However, the purchases hinge on the appraisal value of the land. Dominguez expects the appraisals to be done in two weeks.

Bill 125 pulls $500,000 from unclaimed tax refunds that reverted to the General Fund after October 2012. The local government is sitting on about $5.7 million in escheated tax refunds.

Public Works expects it to cost the local government an additional $3.6 million to acquire the remaining portions. That cost will be partially offset by the sale of remnants of the land not needed for the road project to the airport, Dominguez said.

Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz, D-Piti, asked why it would only cost $3.6 million to acquire cliffside properties roughly twice the size of the airport land that would be bought for $5.8 million.

Clark said the turnover of federal lands included a clause allowing federal officials to reclaim the land at any time and also required a road be built. That provision remained when the land was transferred to the previous owners and is what drives down the price of the private land, Clark said.

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