Public consulted about closures: L.T.A. Chief
The Land Transport Authority (L.T.A.) says it extensively consulted with the public and business about impending road closures around the Vaisigano Bridge Project, despite local businesses saying otherwise.
Last week, the Samoa Observer surveyed business from the east and west of the road closure and one-way detour. Half were given written notice and contact email addresses through which they could raise questions, while half say they were not informed or consulted.
That group includes the Sheraton Aggie Grey’s Hotel and Bungalows, which, under the current closure plan, will lose access to their property for all of March when the current one-way detour is closed.
In a statement responding to questions on the closure from the Samoa Observer, L.T.A Chief Executive Officer Galumalemana Ta’atialeoitiiti Tutuvanu-Schwalger said the project team has been conducting consultation since before construction began in 2018; work that continues today.
“L.T.A. officials met with the relevant village mayors, provide written notifications and/or consultations with relevant businesses to inform them of the road closure starting November 2019,” she wrote.
“Furthermore, L.T.A. had informed the public on the Vaisigano bridge road closure on radio talk program and public notices issued radio, T.V and our L.T.A. Facebook in advance.”
But at least four businesses to the west of the road closure say they were not personally contacted about the impending closure last year, and say their bottom line is suffering as a result of being unable to prepare for the significant drop in customers.
Andrew Pedrana of the Coffee Bean has watched his lunchtime rush disappear, and feels he is two weeks late trying to start up a delivery service to make up for the lost customers.
“In terms of timing, it’s pretty horrible. We just got through the epidemic and that economic down turn so to get this straight after is a real kick in the gut,” Mr. Pedrana told Samoa Observer last week.
Specific questions about why Mr. Pedrana and his neighbours – the Sheraton, Mari’s Café and Bakehouse and AquaSamoa – were not issued letters and maps advising them of the closure, while businesses east of the closure were notified, were not addressed by the Authority.
Galumalemana also said funding had been sourced from the Green Climate Fund (which is funding the larger project of which the bridge improvements are a part) to fix the drainage problems at Vaipuna, the new thoroughfare for the detour.
During the heavy rains over the last month, residents of Vaipuna prepared to deal with their annually flooded road. But unlike in the past, this year their road was suddenly a highway, and traffic was not responding well to the flooding.
Last week roadworks began to address the drainage, without which the road had been essentially reduced to one lane.
According to Galumalemana, there had been plans in the “pipeline” to improve this road, and now funding has been made available.
The work is being finished as fast as possible, and that the new bridge and road will be of “greater benefit to the residents and businesses once completed,” the C.E.O. said.
“We acknowledge and understand the concerns from the residents and businesses affected due to the Vaisigano bridge closure.
“We reassure the general public that we are working together to ensure that the works are completed as soon as possible so that the road is opened for use as soon as possible.”
The road in question is closed in order to raise it to meet the new bridge, 1.5 metres higher than the existing structure. It is being raised to make it safer and more climate resilient, and will be less prone to flooding from the Vaisigano River as in the past.
The new bridge has just three spans – the distance between bridge supports – as opposed to the existing seven, which may improve the bridge’s environmental impact on the riverbed and make it less resource intensive to build.
Work began in May 2018 and all up should be completed this July. The construction is funded by the Government of Japan and the Green Climate Fund.
Galumalemana’s statement did not address why some businesses were given letters and others did not, what plans for access are during March when the one-way road is closed entirely, nor the questions over compensation for affected businesses.
The L.T.A.'s full statement is recorded below:
"The current project for Vaisigano Bridge is funded by the Government of Japan through JICA and the Government of Samoa. The design and supervision is being carried out by Central Consultant and construction is carried out by Konoike Construction. The new bridge will be 1.5 meters higher than the existing bridge. Moreover, it has 3 spans as opposed to the 7 spans for the existing bridge. The new bridge will be safer and more climate resilient. Works commenced in May 2018 and is expected to be completed in July 2020.
Due to the new bridge being 1.5 meters higher, the road level should be raised accordingly. To achieve this new road level, it is necessary that the road is closed to carry out construction for the safety of the public and the workers on site.
L.T.A. and the project team have conducted numerous consultations for the Vaisigano Bridge Project and is still ongoing. Consultations commenced in the design phase and continued prior to commencement of construction in 2018. L.T.A. officials met with the relevant village mayors, provide written notifications and/or consultations with relevant businesses to inform them of the road closure starting November 2019. Furthermore, L.T.A. had informed the public on the Vaisigano bridge road closure on radio talk program and public notices issued radio, TV and our L.T.A. Facebook in advance.
We acknowledge and understand the concerns from the residents and businesses affected due to the Vaisigano bridge closure. We reassure the general public that we are working together to ensure that the works are completed as soon as possible so that the road is opened for use as soon as possible. More importantly, the new bridge and road at Vaisigano will be of greater benefit to the residents and businesses once completed.
With regards to the flooding area at Vaipuna, it has been in the pipeline of L.T.A. works to upgrade this drainage at Vaipuna. Funding have been made available under the Green Climate Fund project which will fund the much needed works at Vaipuna.
We thank and greatly appreciate the public for its assistance and cooperation with our work at Vaisigano Bridge as well as our other major road works that are ongoing."