Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Guam's Billion Dollar Road

$1.25B road project detailed
Proposed highway would cut through Manengon
By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno
Pacific Daily News
May 31, 2007

Guam's future billion-dollar highway, which is a piece of the military buildup puzzle, likely will run across largely undeveloped hills and valleys of Chalan Pago, Yona and Piti, according to a tentative map from the Navy.

If the idea evolves into an adopted plan, the highway would start near the point where Routes 10 and 4 meet in Chalan Pago, according to a Department of the Navy Guam planning document, which was still at an early stage and was labeled "notional."

The $1.25 billion highway would provide the military with an alternative access that links Andersen Air Force Base in northern Guam and the Navy base on the southern side of the island.

The Air Force and Navy bases use Marine Corps Drive for a main link, but the road has had a history of gridlock during serious accidents.

In May 2006, Air Force Lt. Gen. Daniel Leaf, deputy commander of U.S. Pacific Command, said in an interview that when the island's military population grows significantly, the highway would be needed to "move both people, supplies and equipment from north to south, south to north on the island, whether it's for training or to deploy out of the harbor."

"And we want to do that with minimal impact on the community and expeditiously. The current road structure doesn't really allow for that very well. So that's an area we believe we'll have to invest in," Leaf said.

The largest chunk of the $15 billion military buildup on Guam involves building housing, training and other facilities for the 8,352 members of the U.S. Marines and about 9,000 dependents who must relocate from Okinawa to Guam by 2014.

The Marines' move to Guam is expected to cost about $10 billion, of which $6 billion will be paid by Japan.

The 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force is moving out of Okinawa as part of the U.S.-Japan agreement aimed at beefing up security in the region and consolidating U.S. military installations in Japan to free up land for return to the Japanese.

But while Japan is helping to pay for the Marines' relocation, such as for barracks and "quality-of-life" facilities, the highway project is expected to be 100 percent funded by American taxpayers, according to an itemized list of cost sharing between Japan and the U.S.

Real property values soaring
The anticipation of local economic growth stemming from the military buildup already has sent the values of Guam homes, condominium units and land parcels soaring.
"I am amazed at how much the island has already benefited from the initial phases of the buildup," said Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo, in a speech to the Guam Chamber of Commerce yesterday.

She mentioned that in some cases, real property values have increased 300 percent over the past few years.

"The economic investment I see here on Guam will eclipse the boom we experienced in the '80s," she said, of the era when Guam was a magnet for Japanese investors who financed construction of many Guam hotels.

"Rising property values means equity for the residents of Guam and that translates into wealth," she said.

The congresswoman's speech did not mention the $1.25 billion highway project, but she said that even before the Marine-related construction kicks in, the military buildup has begun.

The fiscal 2008 defense spending bill includes $300 million in military construction projects for Guam. The bill has passed the House, and it will work out a version that will also be acceptable to the Senate.

Fiscal 2009 funding for military projects on Guam will hover around $500 million, and more than $1 billion a year starting in 2010, Bordallo said.

For Guam investors who are planning to buy land in areas near the future billion-dollar road project, they can do so now, but their investments might not turn profits any time soon.
While the construction project for the Marines' relocation is expected to begin three years from now, or around July 2010, the road project will start years further into the buildup, according to a military time line.

The military highway construction might start in the fifth year into the buildup, or around 2015, based on the preliminary time line.

But before any of the major buildup construction projects can begin, environmental impact assessments must be completed.

That process could take about two years, according to a military estimate

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