The government of Puerto Rico has taken a necessary step to redouble efforts leading to the crucial goal of rehabilitating infrastructure to achieve economic recovery.
Two years and three months after the catastrophic impact of Hurricane María, renewing efforts to carry out projects to speed up the reconstruction of roads and all critical infrastructure affected by the hurricane seems a wise decision.
An executive order signed by the governor authorizes the Fiscal Agency & Financial Advisory Authority (FAFAA) to begin internal reorganization processes in any government agency or public corporation in charge of speeding up recovery and reconstruction projects.
The order allows modifying, eliminating or expanding organizational and managerial structures. It also seeks for the Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience (COR3) to adjust public policy in agencies in charge of developing recovery projects.
The order must be complied with determination to break down those obstacles that keep important projects at a standstill. Given strict conditions by federal authorities to disburse recovery funds for Puerto Rico, officials must intensify coordination with U.S. government liaisons in order to eliminate the uncertainty that has put urgent repair work on roads and other public structures on hold.
Detailed reports by the Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTOP) on the delay in repairing roads with more than 300 landslides identified are disturbing. The agency also acknowledged that there still 18,000 signs destroyed by the hurricanes on public roads that still have to be installed. The lack of these signs affects orderly and safe traffic. It particularly impacts visitors on domestic tourism tours.
The Electric Power Authority also reported that they have not succeeded in replacing 34,948 streetlights. The corporation recognized that there are large sectors without adequate lighting in the capital city. DTOP road repairs as well as lighting are important because they impact communities safety. In terms of the power grid, the pending agenda focuses on its modernization and transformation to achieve generation with renewable sources. This is a comprehensive project that should start materializing next year.
Agency heads need to readjust objectives and set goals with realistic dates to complete projects. There should be no room for inaccurate answers that imply more uncertainty.
The need to improve Puerto Rico's infrastructure, recognized by federal agencies linked to the release of billions in recovery funds, has just been reaffirmed by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The entity pointed to the relevance of accelerating the sustainable and resilient rehabilitation of key facilities seeking quality of life and social progress on the island.
These civil engineers, in their independent report, estimated in $ 2.3 billion the projection of funds necessary for the proper transformation of the island’s infrastructure. With these considerations in mind, state government officials can strengthen their lobbying efforts for the release of identified federal funds.
Meeting the U.S. government´s demands to access reconstruction funds to start advancing projects requires strong efforts. In this sense, the planning phases for these works must be advanced to set a constant rhythm for their execution and completion phases.
Puerto Rico has to clear any hint of inaction when it comes to rehabilitating our infrastructure. The effort to move this task as a crucial project demands the end once and for all, of the uncertainty associated with practices that have damaged federal authorities confidence. This entails a strong effort of renewed government resources and clearly demonstrating that transformation is possible in the short term.