Discussion

LETTER: Big Isle Road Improvements Held Up by Bureaucrats

May 22, 2014, 11:07 AM HST
* Updated May 22, 11:09 AM
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I’m very disappointed by the lack of progress on two important (and
stalled) Big Island transportation improvements; the second phase of the
Queen Kaahumanu Highway widening and final east side Daniel K. Inouye
Highway (Saddle Road) phase (SR 200(3)).

The second phase of the Queen Kaahumanu Highway widening was supposed to
start in 2008 and be completed by 2010. But, it’s been held up for the
past six years because of two bid protests and a last minute Section 106
consultation process with several native Hawaiian organizations, which
is still ongoing with no end in sight.

This highway widening project, which has been planned since the
mid-1990s, will help reduce traffic congestion and improve roadway
safety between Kailua-Kona and Kona Int’l Airport.

The final east side Daniel K. Inouye Highway (Saddle Road) phase, on the
other hand, is being held up by a glacial right of way acquisition
process. The Hawaii Department of Transportation has acquired the
necessary land for this project from 12 out 15 landowners over
the past three years. The acquisition of the right of way from the
remaining three landowners won’t be completed until September 2015,
according to the Central Federal Lands Highway Division’s website.

Senator Daniel Inouye envisioned a modern cross-island highway linking
East and West Hawaii. That vision is almost a reality. 40.27 out of
45.97 miles has been improved to federal highway standards.

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The final phase between m.m 5.3 and m.m 11 is riddled with design
deficiencies, which has resulted in innumerable amount of traffic
accidents and fatalities. In addition, the reconstruction/realignment of
this final segment will help further decrease the amount of time it
takes to drive between Kailua-Kona and Hilo.

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The recently completed west side phase between m.m 41 and m.m 51.27
shaved off about 25 minutes off a trip to Hilo. I foresee an additional
time savings after this final phase is completed.

These projects will also help the Big Island’s struggling construction
industry, but they’re being held up by bureaucrats in the state and
federal governments. The individual who shoulders the most blame is
Governor Neil Abercrombie. He appointed the director and deputy
directors, who oversee the state Department of Transportation. These
appointees have done little to push these projects along.

Improvements to our transportation infrastructure is critical to
continued job creation, economic growth and roadway safety. However, the
current state administration is dragging their feet and not expediting
these critical infrastructure projects, which are literally shovel ready.

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