ALTHOUGH my office, in general, understands the concerns outlined in a letter from one of the FHWA Representatives within the Hawaii Federal-Aid Division's Office to our DPW director, Joanne Brown, I would like to put on record that the closure of any road, to include routed roads within my district, is NOT taken lightly. FHWA and DPW, to some extent, have forced mayors to close roads as a last resort for the safety of Guam's second largest category of "traffic" next to motorized vehicles: our pedestrians.
Whether these road closures are in support of a Village Fiesta Procession, or more recently a procession of several hundred youth over the weekend traveling from Chalan Pågo's Catholic Church to the Phoenix Center at Father Duenas Memorial School, the fact remains that many of the plans for the widening and/or resurfacing of our island roads, in many cases, has not included funding for the construction of sidewalks. Guam's "pedestrian traffic" also has a right to their safety and unhindered movement when "traveling" along these public easements.
In 2009, before the widening and resurfacing of Route 4 began between the Hagåtña McDonald's and the Route 4/Route 10 intersection, my office specifically asked DPW representatives whether sidewalks could be incorporated into this project. Because of funding limitations, the construction of sidewalks was not added on. The Route 4 project and most of the recent federally-funded roadway projects did not incorporate the construction of sidewalks where there was an obvious need.
To date, pedestrians are routinely seen walking along Route 4 between Hagåtña and the Route 4/Route 10 Intersection using the shoulder or sometimes the traveling lane for vehicles to get to their destination, because there are no sidewalks. In fact, the segments of Route 10 and Route 15 (Maimai Road) are two other routed roads in my district which lack any sidewalks, and in some areas even a safe shoulder for pedestrians to walk along.
One thing I strongly agree with in the letter from FHWA is the emphasis on "stewardship," or what can also be referred to as the "careful and responsible management" of our public highways for "present and future traffic." FHWA and DPW's efforts have focused primarily on the present and future needs of our motorized traffic along our public highways; but where are they, in the responsible management of the other forms of traffic along our highways? Where are they in the "responsible management" for the "free and safe flow" of pedestrian traffic along our highways?
With the rising cost of fuel, more and more people give greater consideration to walking to their destination as opposed to driving. But given the lack of sidewalks along our routed and village roads, many of these people end up driving to their destination rather than risk getting hit by a motorized vehicle operating recklessly along our island roads. The costs to safeguard all forms of traffic along our roads must be implemented if we are truly the "stewards" of our public highways.
Jess C. Gogue,