DOT denies Guam Port $49M in funding - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

DOT denies Guam Port $49M in funding

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by Janjeera Hail

Guam - Plans to modernize the Port Authority of Guam were grounded today after the U.S. Department of Transportation chose not to award the agency $49 million they were seeking in American Reinvestment and Recovery Act Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant money.  Guam's application submitted last year was one of more than 1,000 vying for a portion of $1.5 billion that was awarded for 50 projects.

From the beginning, Port officials knew that the massive task of modernizing the agency would not be easy, but after deciding what improvements needed to be made, identifying funding sources, and securing the Legislature's seal of approval, it looked as though the port might finally, after 40 years, begin the upgrades it needed to handle not only Guam's organic growth, but the impact of the military buildup.

But today news broke that Guam did not receive the $49 million it had been counting on.  Port chairman Monte Mesa said, "I believed that Guam really put together a compelling application.  Not only that, Guam was the only applicant that not only fulfilled the five fundamental requirements, but also the 50% matching money to apply or this grant."

Instead, the Department of Transportation awarded the money to projects like $63 million for a 3.9-mile streetcar line in Tuscon and $23 million for a bike path in Philadelphia.  Meanwhile, the denial of the Port's request meant more than just falling $50 million. 

 Senator Tom Ada says the DOT's decision also scraps the $50 million USDA loan that was contingent on the TIGER grant.  "Tied to that was a loan application to the USDA for another $50 million, but that $50 million USDA loan was contingent upon the successful granting of the ARRA funds," he said.

One of the major reasons the port needs to be upgraded is to handle the influx of cargo expected with the military buildup.  Joint Guam Program Office Executive Director David Bice says despite the setback, the modernization needs to happen, noting, "I thought it was a very strong application and we're looking at other options and we're going to pursue other options because the modernization and expansion of the port is required for the buildup."

He didn't give any specifics on what avenues can be taken, but says the military buildup will continue as scheduled.  "I don't see any delays because we'll be starting off construction this summer," he said.

The Port now has 30 days to officially announce to the Legislature that they did not receive the funding, and 90 days thereafter to present an amended plan.  With so much riding on the TIGER grant, today's announcement was a huge step backwards and only time will tell if the port will be able to catch-up.

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