TMT Construction to Begin July 15; Expect Road Closures

July 10, 2019, 2:04 PM HST (Updated July 11, 2019, 10:22 AM)
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An artist’s rendering of TMT with its vents open. TMT photo.

The Hawai‘i Department of Transportation announced that the public can expect Mauna Kea Access Road to be closed starting the week of July 15, 2019, to ensure the safe transport of heavy machinery, the DOT reported in a July 10, 2019, press release.

Access to the road during the closure will be limited. Motorists are also advised of the potential for intermittent traffic control on the Daniel K. Inouye Highway due to the transport of heavy machinery. Lane shifts may be necessary near the intersection with Mauna Kea Access Road to ensure safety. Travel will be maintained in both directions on the highway.

This announcement coincides with Gov. David Ige’s Wednesday announcement that construction is set to begin on the Thirty Meter Telescope the week of July 15.

DOT officials said they plan to close Mauna Kea Access Road at 7 a.m. on Monday along with other roads. Hunting areas A, K and G will be also be closed temporarily.

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The access road will be closed until the heavy equipment for the TMT construction has been transported. The US National Guard will transport personnel and supplies after that.

Both measures are being taken to ensure the safety and security of the public and personnel involved in moving equipment for the TMT project up the Mauna Kea Access Road.

Gov. Ige said National Guard members will not be armed.

“We have followed a 10-year process to get this point, and the day for construction to begin has arrived,” Gov. Ige said. “At this time our number one priority is everyone’s safety. As construction begins, I continue to be committed to engaging with people holding all perspectives on this issue and to making meaningful changes that further contribute to the co-existence of culture and science on Mauna Kea.”

“We aim to build the TMT for the benefit of all of mankind,” Henry Yang, chairman of the Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory Board of Governors, said at a livestreamed press conference on Wednesday from the State Capitol.

The TMT project has been under consideration for 16 years, overcoming numerous legal and political hurdles along the way.

New signs appeared on Mauna Kea Road last month; one in English and another in Hawaiian. PC: Crystal Richard

Mauna Kea on the Big Island is already the site of several observatories, but the TMT will be the biggest by far.

The TMT will be constructed on UH-managed lands on Maunakea located in the conservation district regulated by the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR).

On June 19, 2019, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources issued a notice to proceed to the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo for the TMT project. The permit was issued after DLNR confirmed the completion of the pre-construction conditions and mitigation measures required of the project in the Conservation District Use Permit.

Although the TMT project has sparked significant opposition from some Native Hawaiian activists, the Hawai‘i Supreme Court gave the project the green flag at the end of last year.

Protesters, who continue to say the project would further desecrate a mountain that they consider sacred, filed another lawsuit against the telescope Monday in another effort to prevent construction.

New signs appeared on Mauna Kea Road last month; one in English and another in Hawaiian. PC: Crystal Richard

Construction is expected to cause more confrontations and arrests.

Although new signs appeared along Mauna Kea Access Road last month, no information was disclosed about them after numerous attempts to gain answers from county and state departments.

The HDOT will send more information on potential traffic impacts to Daniel K. Inouye Highway due to heavy vehicle movement for the public’s planning purposes.

Requests for more information can be directed to [email protected].

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