Guam Congressman Michael San Nicolas lobbied for more funds to support Guam’s infrastructure needs during a hearing of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
In his testimony, San Nicolas said Congress has the chance to provide a “transformative opportunity” to enhance the quality of life for everyone living on Guam.
“Similar to the rest of the country, Guam has critical infrastructure needs in the area of road repair, with a decade-old Highway Master Plan pricing needed improvements at over $600 million. Many of our public schools date back to the post WWII era, with at least half a dozen in need of replacement and all requiring long overdue maintenance overhauls at an overall price point estimated at $1.1 billion,” San Nicolas said.
The Guam delegate also mentioned Guam Memorial Hospital’s over $700 million in deferred maintenance needs as determined by the Army Corps of Engineers the dire need for GMH’s critical overhaul or preferred outright replacement.
“Guam wishes to put these on the record for the Committee as considerations are made for the allocation of additional transportation and infrastructure resources,” the congressman said.
San Nicolas particularly cited the need for investment in the public transportation system on Guam, which comprises only a single public bus services operation. He pointed out that with a population of 180,000 people occupying 212 square miles, Guam is more densely populated than 48 other U.S. States.
“Factoring in the fact that we have (pre-pandemic) more tourists per capita than anywhere else in the country (1.9MM/180k), and that we are relocating $8B worth of military infrastructure in the transfer of a Marine Base and 12,000 personnel and dependents from Okinawa to Guam, this Committee in its expertise and experience would be undoubtedly shocked at what we currently are calling public transportation on Guam,” the Guam delegate said.
At present, Guam only has only 26 buses in the fleet, with 19 of them focused on disability and veteran services and only 7 servicing an island-wide route.
We have only 10 bus shelters throughout the entire island, leaving tens of thousands isolated, and none of these shelters are properly climatized for the weather conditions on Guam making wait times impractical. It takes over an hour for a bus to arrive based on agency reports. Our transit operation does not have a maintenance facility capable of meeting current fleet needs nor to meet true fleet demand with an increased number of busses in service,” San Nicolas said..
Additionally, he said the system does not have a centralized operations center, with multiple divisions scattered in different locations.
Further exacerbating transportation realities on Guam is the fact that vehicular travel is more prohibitive as gas prices are at $4.30 per gallon, taxi fares are too expensive for everyday use, and the absence of national rideshare service providers such as Lyft or Uber have small local operators trying to fill the gaps.
“Members of the Committee, we need direct and substantial investment in the Guam public transportation system. We need to centralize operations, establish sustainable maintenance capacity, and increase our fleet and bus shelters tenfold. This will mobilize our economy, help people to be gainfully employed, promote a healthier community with greater access to food and medical care, lower carbon emissions, reduce traffic congestion (and enhance the useful life of federally funded roads), and properly showcase to our international visitors that America is not immobilized,” San Nicolas testified.