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FSM launches $40 million capital improvement project

The Federated States of Micronesia launches its $40 million Priority Road Improvements & Management Enhancements (PRIME) project during a virtual ceremony on Oct. 13, 2021. Screenshot courtesy of FSMIS

By Pacific Island Times News Staff

The Federated States of Micronesia has launched its $40 million Priority Road Improvements & Management Enhancements (PRIME) project, a World Bank-funded initiative to rehabilitate the nation’s deteriorating infrastructures. FSM President David Panuelo unveiled the PRIME project during a virtual ceremony on Oct. 13.

A key initiative under the administration’s Pave the Nation program, PRIME comprises several projects in FSM’s four states, Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae.

During the project launch, Panuelo virtually received WB’s country director Stephen Ndegwa and resident representative Degi Young. In Palikir, the president was accompanied by the diplomatic corps fromChina, Japan, the United States and Australia, and a representative from Pohnpei governor’s office.

The Pave the Nation program is meant to address the deteriorated state of the nation’s road network and improve the FSM’s roads so as to make them climate-resilient.

The projects will be financed through the World Bank’s International Development Association.

For Kosrae, the project consists of improvements to the 50-year-old Lelu Causeway, which is very narrow, low and has insufficient drainage. The causeway is presently suffering from erosion and scouring from tidal action. The improvements should provide for significantly increased natural water-flow dynamics. For Pohnpei, the project involves the replacement of the Awak Bridge. The 40-ft long concrete bridge is already considered to be unsafe, and in the event the bridge becomes unusable the practical effect would mean that outlying communities would be unable to access essential social services such as healthcare and education. For Chuuk, the project includes the approximately one-mile extension of roads in Weno. At present, the road from the Chuuk Airport to the Pou Bay Bridge is barely passable due to never-ending chains of waterlogged potholes; yet, the road forms the primary access between

Weno town proper, and the communities and facilities in Sapuk. The climate-resilient concretizing of the road, similar to the roads in Weno town proper, will result in profound quality-of-life improvements for FSM citizens residing in Chuuk. For Yap, the Donoch and Tagaaniyal bridges—the two short-span steel and concrete composite bridges in Colonia, located right on the shoreline—are presently considered to be abjectly unsafe.

The primary and secondary support steel I-beams have completely rusted, and the underside of the bridge decks has spalled, revealing corroded reinforcement.

The need for replacement is sufficiently urgent that the FSM Department of Transportation, Communication, & Infrastructure (TC&I) has recommended weight limits and/or possible closure,as an interim precaution. Among the PRIME Project’s scope of work in Yap includes the replacement of these bridges. “We are thankful that the PRIME Project will provide us with the planning tools to seek additional funding for the Pave the Nation initiative or program from other development partners, including the United States, China, Australia through its infrastructure financing facility, Japan and the Asian Development Bank," Panuelo said.

“I am pleased to note, in this regard, that our request for financial support from the Asian Development Bank is now in the final stages of negotiation and approval. I also note that the World Bank is already preparing a second road project, with funding expected to be approved early next year.”

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