The Department of Public Works is facing a shortage of many materials needed to keep roads safe, Director Vince Arriola said during a budget request hearing on Thursday.
The conversation was brought up by Sen. Joe San Agustin, who said many motorists complained about poor road visibility at night, especially in the rain.
According to Arriola, there was local funding available to pay for materials like reflectors, paint and granules needed to mark the roads, but supplies were not available.
“We’re struggling to get it because it’s just not available. So we have to wait for production to ramp up — and that’s a nationwide thing,” Arriola said.
San Agustin was also concerned about damaged guardrails that keep cars off the road: “Motorists drive down the road, they have accidents, they hit the rails. Is there any compensation received from the insurance? … Why does it take so long to replace them? He asked.
According to Arriola, there is a contract for the replacement of the railings around the island, but they were also in short supply. Beyond that, it was difficult to collect insurance when drivers hit them.
“I can’t put a figure on that, senator, but I have to imagine that much less than 50% is probably claimed from insurance. And it could be any number of factors, it could be a hit and run, the car has no insurance, probably has no registration, drunk driving – that which is not covered by most, if not all, insurance,” Arriola said, noting that Public Works is making every effort to collect insurance information.
San Agustin suggested Arriola contact the attorney general about it “and say, ‘You know what, I’m making a claim to the government. You, Attorney General, sue these people…and let’s fix these rails because you can absorb your budget.
The Department of Public Works is requesting a status quo budget of $19.2 million for the next fiscal year. While a recent six-month suspension of liquid fuel taxes will take $4.5 million from the Guam Highway Fund, which pays for much of the public works operations and village road repairs, Arriola only raised no worries about the money, which will be compensated by money from the general fund.
Funding for village road repairs will remain at $2.25 million in fiscal year 2023, but Arriola said the agency plans to use $7 million from the U.S. bailout to increase repairs. village roads.
The agency will receive about $35 million from the federal Infrastructure and Jobs Act over the next five years, though much of the money is only available for mapped roads or projects like flood control.