Driving from the airport into the city of Apia, the capital of Samoa, is a great introduction to the country. Villages line the road with gardens filled with colorful flowers and palm trees. Hugging the northwest coastline, the road sometimes comes as close as five meters from the shoreline, giving passengers truly spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean.
While it’s a scenic introduction to Samoa, this drive is also a stark reminder of just how sensitive the country’s coastline is to erosion and damage. More than 50% of West Coast Road, Apia’s main roadway, sits less than three meters (9.8 feet) above sea level and just a few meters from the shoreline, making it highly vulnerable to damage and deterioration. When tropical cyclones, heavy rain, king tides and storm surges hit these coastal roads, they can lead to erosion, flooding and landslips, causing road closures and threatening the safety of the people who use them.
The 23-kilometer West Coast Road, which becomes Vaitele Street as it approaches the town, provides a vital connection between Apia (including its port), Faleolo International Airport and the all-important Mulifanua inter-island ferry wharf. More than 50% of Samoa’s population – and most of the country’s industry – is located along this corridor, connecting people to jobs, schools, family and economic opportunities.
Goods are shipped into the port in Apia then travel along Vaitele Street and onto the West Coast Road to be ferried across to Savai’i, Samoa’s second largest island, and tourists use the roads to reach Apia from the airport before connecting to other holiday destinations around the country.
In August 2016, the extension of Vaitele Street was officially opened by Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, Prime Minister of Samoa, and Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific. As Samoa’s first four-lane, dual carriageway, the Vaitele Street extension is an important milestone for Samoa’s Enhanced Road Access Project, restoring key roads across the country which have been damaged by extreme weather, and making them more climate-resilient for the future.
Leone Bridge, another key connector in Apia, was damaged during Cyclone Evan. Under this project, the bridge is currently being rebuilt, allowing smoother transport of people and goods through town.
A related project is working with the Government of Samoa to improve the climate resilience of the West Coast Road and boost local skills so Samoa can develop a more climate-resilient road network.
Road works will be carried out along the West Coast Road including raising and strengthening vulnerable sections of the road to reduce damage from king tides and flooding; sealing shoulders to prevent pooling of water along the side of the road, encouraging pedestrians to walk along the shoulders rather than on the road itself; and improving drainage to reduce flooding and the damage and deterioration it causes.
This work is the first of its kind in Samoa and will serve as a pilot for future roadworks and other development projects to help climate-proof this island nation.