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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Mayors’ group: Condition of state highways points to discrimination by DTOP

Mayors Association President Luis Javier Hernández Ortiz

By The Star Staff

A group of Popular Democratic Party mayors attached to the Mayors Association of Puerto Rico (AAPR by its Spanish initials), along with municipal legislators, denounced on Wednesday what they said is the lack of attention given to state highways by the Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTOP by its Spanish acronym).

“What is being experienced throughout Puerto Rico is a crisis in the state of public roads,” said Villalba Mayor Luis Javier Hernández Ortiz, who is the AAPR president, in a written statement. “We have reported this situation before. We are pointing out a situation of discrimination.”

They noted that on Aug. 25, 2022, and then July 31, 2023, DTOP Secretary Eileen Vélez Vega announced the ‘Changing Lanes’ program under which each municipality would report the three roads that required the most attention, and said action has not been taken by the commonwealth agency.

“In fact, there was talk of 827,000 tons of asphalt, and we want to know in detail what happened to that, what agreements have been signed and the dates of the work,” said Trujillo Alto Mayor Pedro Rodríguez González.

In the case of Naguabo, Mayor Miraidaliz Rosario Pagán listed numerous state highways that are in poor condition, including PR-31, PR-3 and PR-924.

Isabela Mayor Miguel Méndez Pérez listed at least 10 problem roads in his town, including PR-212, PR-466 and PR-446.

In Villalba, meanwhile, the three unattended roads, which Hernández Ortiz said are already known to DTOP, are PR-153, PR-161 and PR-538. In Trujillo Alto, the 15 state roads that require attention include PR-181, PR-175, and PR-199, Rodríguez González said.

Meanwhile, Cidra Mayor Ángel David Concepción, pointed out that PR-782 in the Ceiba neighborhood requires repairs and attention due to landslides that have not been attended to since the passage of Hurricane Maria, while the town’s busiest highway, PR-734 to Cayey, was destroyed.

In Santa Isabel, Mayor Rafael Burgos Santiago said the roads with the greatest need are PR-153, PR-161 and PR-538.

“We have had many meetings with Secretary Vélez Vega, several, and the work is not done,” Hernández Ortiz said. “The lack of action by the DTOP is in Trujillo Alto, Villalba, Naguabo, Toa Alta and Isabela, among other [Mayors Association-affiliated] municipalities. In some municipalities, yes, there has been repavement work, and on January 29, we mayors, in writing, asked Secretary Vélez Vega to certify which roads have been paved. To date, she has not responded to our letter, when in other municipalities with mayors from the New Progressive Party … they have paved. This claim we are making is a citizen’s claim.”

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