By Joy White
Guam’s infrastructure has long been ripe for improvement, construction experts agree.
“[Guam’s infrastructure] definitely needs upgrades and improvements,” says Richard G.
Brown, operations manager of Pernix Guam LLC.
All aspects of infrastructure, from basic utilities such as water and power to transportation such as roads and ports, need to be upgraded to meet Guam’s growing population.
“It all needs to be done. … [One way to do it is to] develop a systematic approach to all the projects in about 10 years,” says John M. Robertson, president and principal engineer of J.M. Robertson Inc., which does business as AmOrient Engineering.
Of particular concern to Robertson is Guam Memorial Hospital, which has poor critical infrastructure. The government may want to consider contracting a private hospital operator that is willing to invest, he says, as GovGuam borrowed too much and should look at other options.
John Sage, vice president and general manager of Watts Constructors LLC, says that Guam’s infrastructure is a work in progress. The island’s roads are in perpetual need of maintenance and upgrades, he says. “Guam has lagged badly in that area, particularly in the construction of new roads.”
In terms of generating reliable power, Guam’s power generation is of “absolute priority,” Sage says.
“The sewage collection system and Guam’s wastewater treatment plants need significant upgrades to bring them to acceptable standards,” he says.
In comparison, Guam’s sea port and sanitary landfills have improved, though the former is in need of capital equipment such as cranes, he says.
“Ideally we should be investing in key road projects, such as the much discussed Hamburger Road project, building a robust traffic signal system that allows phasing of traffic signals and alleviates congestion would be ideal and upgrading storm and wastewater systems, particularly in key tourist areas,” Sage says.
Projects that would benefit the island include a solution to the pollution issues in our local waters such as Tumon Bay, and exploring alternative energy sources including solar and wind, which are now mature technologies that make sense for a resource-constrained island like Guam, Sage says.
“There have been positive improvements to Guam’s infrastructure at this time; however, with the anticipated increase in population, continual improvements to water, sewer and power will be essential,” says Leonard K. Kaae, senior vice president and general manager of Black Construction Corp.
Projects that would greatly benefit Guam are a traffic management program for Marine Drive and corresponding thoroughfares and improving roads, including major highways that will be impacted by the Marine realignment, and roads and facilities for visitors, Kaae says.
Arthur D. Chan Jr., engineering and marketing manager of Hawaiian Rock Products, says Guam’s infrastructure needs a lot of work, including the power generators at Cabras, water and sewer lines and roads especially. The condition of well-traveled roads needs to be assessed, Chan says, such as Route 1 from Dededo to Yigo and the road from Route 1 to Latte Heights. Taxpayer money would be better spent on road projects beneficial to all instead of other government operations and property costs, he says.
“People that travel these roads are taxpayers and as such would like to have their tax money well spent instead of money going to pay for a $14 million property in the port — which, by the way, has been closed and unused for several years now — or to pay for an over-padded cost of property in Tiyan,” Chan said.
Plans should also be made for the reconstruction of Ypao Road to accommodate efforts to increase tourism numbers. A renovated Ypao Road would offer an additional route to and from Tumon, he says.
“Guam’s level of infrastructure can be improved with proper planning, funding and program management,” says Conchita D. Bathan, CEO of Core Tech International.
Guam’s public agencies, with the help of private contractors, are making efforts to improve the island’s infrastructure.
Port of entry infrastructure upgrades
For the past several years, the Port Authority of Guam has been making its way toward modernization and upgrading its infrastructure.
As reported in July, the year to date total cargo vessels handled by the Port Authority of Guam was 210, the total containers handled was 79,433 and the monthly average of
containers handled was 8,826. Gantry cranes 4, 5 and 6 were operational for loading and unloading containers, while Gantry 3 was still under maintenance and repair.
As of July, a total of $49.3 million was spent to include $46.4 million on modernization projects, $2.7 million on security, $154,418 on marinas and $3,138 on port police upgrades from federal grants and loans and local funding programs. In addition, $5.5 million of new equipment is being acquired through the ports financing or direct budget appropriation.
Ongoing projects at the port include the service life extension for its F-5 Wharf. The contract was awarded to BME & Sons Inc. and design to Parson Brinkerhoff. The total amount for the project is $5.4 million. Final work on the project was to begin on July 25.
Projects in the coming months include striping the container yard and installing wheel stops, for which the bid was opened on July 13 with a budget of $1 million; a container yard lighting improvement project, which was opened for bids on June 30, with an estimate of $140,000 and port building repairs including the renovation of the engineering, safety and stevedoring offices and roof repairs on the administration building.
Airport infrastructure is important for one of Guam’s leading industries: tourism. In mid-2015 work was completed on the A.B. Won Pat International Airport, Guam’s Runway 6L/24R, which allows the airport to accommodate long-haul flights to and from Guam. The runway was extended from 10,000 linear feet to 12,000. The project took about five years and cost $70 million, funded by Federal Aviation Administration grants. Electrical wiring was replaced and installed for the additional length of the runway, and a new Instrument Landing System was installed to service the full length. Contractors installed a precision approach pathway indicator system on the airport’s secondary runway 6R/24L.
Roads and highways
In February, the Guam Department of Public Works developed the Transportation Improvement Program for fiscal 2016 to 2019 to provide a short-term improvement plan that is financially feasible and details the department’s priorities for the spending of federal funds in the upcoming years.
The projects address safety issues, pavement and bridge conditions and traffic operational improvements.
Over the four-year life of the plan, $69.4 million will come from the Territorial Highway Program Projects and $9 million from the Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles bond repayment, as well as $47.6 million in other GARVEE bonds, $687,764 in Section 1934 projects and $5.6 million from local projects.
In fiscal 2016, $687,764 of work is being funded by Section 1934 Funds and $23.4 million from the Territorial Highway Program. In fiscal 2017, $15.9 million will be funded through the Territorial Highway Program and $47.6 million from GARVEE bonds. In fiscals 2018 and 2019, $15.9 million for each year will be funded from the Territorial Highway Program.
Projects completed this year include improvement work on the intersections of Route 25 and 26 for $2.7 million by Korando Corp. in June.
In September, work is expected to be completed at the Routes 1 and 8 intersection and Agana Bridge replacement project. The cost of the project is estimated at $16.6 million, and work is being done by Core Tech International. As of August, the project was 94% complete.
By December, DPW expects to start on the improvements to the intersection of Routes 1 and 3. Maeda Pacific has been contracted for the project, which is expected to cost $6.8 million. The project is estimated to take about a year to complete.
The replacement of the Bile and Pigua bridges are expected to be completed by June by Korando Corp. at a cost of $3.7 million. As of August, the estimated progress was 7%.
A total of $62.9 million projects are planned by Guam Power Authority, including various distribution, substation and transmission upgrades.
In the bid phase is work for the Fadian Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition System, Energy Storage and renewable energy mitigation and the Dededo CT Return to service.
GPA’s recently completed projects include Dededo substation upgrades completed for $4.5 million, overhauling the turbine and boiler at Cabras 2 completed for $5.7 million; and line upgrades from Harmon to Yigo for $2.5 million.
Projects pending design are improvements to GPA facilities’ physical security estimated at $1.4 million, system protection improvement and cap bank controllers estimated at $1.3 million and Tumon Bay lateral conversion for $1.3 million.
Water and wastewater
Guam Waterworks Authority will utilize bond funding of $143.3 million and $44.8 million in
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant money for capital improvement projects.
Island-wide projects include the replacement of more than 200 damaged or nonfunctional fire hydrants; installation of master meters at production and storage facilities and pressure zones to monitor and track water consumption; and the installation of monitoring and control hardware and software to allow GWA to better monitor and control the entire water and wastewater system.
GWA will continue work on the design and installation of telemetry equipment to alert when high water situations occur at wastewater pump stations island wide.Work began in June 2015 and is expected to be completed by September 2017.
GWA also plans to update its master plan for wastewater, water and source water
systems to reflect updated population projections, completed system improvement projects and to identify improvement projects in the future.
By December, GWA expects the Agat-Santa Rita Wastewater Treatment Plant to be operational. The plant will operate 24/7 and will achieve secondary treatment wastewater flows of 1.6 million gallons per day during the dry season and up to 9.3 million gallons per day during the rainy season. The $60 million facility will improve the quality of effluent discharging from the existing treatment plant in the area and consolidate Southern treatment operations resulting in cost reductions.
By 2017, GWA plans to replace all sewer lines on the island. The existing water lines,
which are two inches in diameter, will be replaced with lines six to eight inches in diameter.
The department will continue with deep-water well drilling and rehabilitation, which began in November 2014. The project proposes new well locations in addition to rehabilitation of five existing wells. The department has not drilled new water wells since the 1990s. The addition of new wells and managing the aquifer are important for continued growth on Guam.
GWA will be addressing sewer line overflow in Tumon with a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant by 2018 and in areas of Tamuning by 2017.
Private and military sector work
There is much anticipation for the military buildup, which promises to bring an increase of business for Guam’s construction industry. Many are positioning themselves to take advantage of upcoming projects
AmOrient Engineering, which specializes in government projects, moved into a larger location in anticipation of growth in KG Plaza in Tamuning, next door to Dr. Shieh’s Clinic.
“[The move] shows that we have confidence in the market here,” Robertson says. The
company’s workforce ranges from 16 to 20 employees, and Robertson expects to increase the number of employees to 30 in the next few years.
AmOrient has several design and project management programs for local and federal projects, some with other contracting firms. Its projects include project management of the construction of two water tanks and retrofit for water pumping stations for GWA; design and project management for the installation of lighting on San Vitores Road for the Guam Visitors Bureau; design and special inspection for Andersen Air Force Base; design work for Romeo Wharf for the Navy; and an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity for planning and programming for inventory and inspection of 910 units for AAFB.
In July, AmOrient was awarded part of a $40 million contract by Naval Facilities
Engineering Command for construction management services. The other two awardees were AMEL Technologies Inc. of Honolulu and Planate Management Group LLC of Virginia.
However, despite the work load as the fourth quarter of the fiscal year comes to a close, the construction industry has entered a quiet period.
“The industry is currently in a lull; however, we are bullish on the realignment moving forward, which will have a positive impact on the industry,” Kaae says.
Black Construction’s ongoing projects include work on Tsubaki Hotel foundation piles and Matson Navigation Co. headquarters in Anigua.
“I believe Guam will have lots of construction development over the ensuing seven to 10 years. There will obviously be a lot of work associated with the realignment, but also local government of Guam infrastructure [projects] in addition to private development,” Kaae says.
Other construction companies have several jobs to keep them busy, despite the general sluggish period.
Core Tech’s ongoing projects include
- Work on Guam’s roads, including several bridge replacement and road improvement projects
- Electrical and mechanical-related projects and the construction of two hangars for the military
- Renewable energy projects
- Water and wastewater system projects
- Structural upgrades to the airport building facility
- Live fire training range, solid waste landfill closure, hangar, sanitary sewer system revitalization, storage facility, design and build MACC projects and the installation of a control center for the military in 2017
- GWA island-wide water line replacement and additional projects in the southern part of the island
- Operation of ready-mix concrete batch plant
- Housing projects, including Summer Tower in Tamuning, formerly Emerald Oceanview; Summer Town Estates III in Dededo, which consists of three and four bedroom units; Summer Town Estates IV in Dededo, which consists of 16 single detached home units for sale or lease to own; Summer Park in Dededo, for which the master plan is under development; and the construction of 59 single detached homes for sale in Chalan Pago.
Watts Construction is kept busy with work for the Navy on the X-Ray and Romeo wharves, construction of a concrete hangar at Andersen Air Force Base, 28 munitions bunkers at Orote Point and completing work on two building projects at Polaris Point.
Hawaiian Rock’s ongoing contract is the IDIQ contract for the Andersen airfield. Hawaiian Rock will commence work on road repairs from Potts Junction leading to Ritidian and the reconstruction of Route 3.
Pernix will be completing work on the main hangar at Andersen and recovery work on Cabras 3 and 4, which included work on the roof of Generator 3.
Pernix is also selectively bidding for different projects best for the company, with a focus on federal and Department of Defense projects, Brown says.
The construction industry continues to face workforce issues, especially in obtaining skilled workers. Adding to the issue is a steady stream of H2 visa denials from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
According to the Guam Contractors Association, USCIS has rejected almost all applications for new visas and renewals. Last year about 90% of applications were approved while this year 99.9% of petitions have been denied or potentially be denied.
Guam Department of Labor data shows that 670 applications were approved by GDOL, but only six were approved by USCIS from January to May. In addition, approval and denial traffic from USCIS has been slow. Approvals and denials are expected to take six months to a year.
The Guam Contractors Association is filing a lawsuit against the government protesting the denial of H2B visas. As of August, the Association had hired a lawyer to draft a complaint. n
Repairs to Hamburger Road is listed in the Guam Department of Public Works 2016-2019 Transportation Improvement Plan. The road is one example of many needed infrastructure projects in Guam.
Photo by Joy White