I’m very disappointed by the lack of progress on two important, and stalled, Big Island transportation improvements. One is the second phase of the widening of the Queen Kaahumanu Highway and the final east side phase of Daniel K. Inouye Highway (Saddle Road).

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 International Airport.

The final east side Daniel K. Inouye Highway 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 of 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.

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

The final phase between mile 5.3 and mile 11 is riddled with design deficiencies that have resulted in innumerable traffic accidents and fatalities.

The reconstruction and realignment of this final segment will help further decrease the amount of time it takes to drive between Kailua-Kona and Hilo.

The recently completed west side phase between mile 41 and mile 51.27 shaved off about 25 minutes from a trip to Hilo. I foresee 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 by federal governments.

The individual who shoulders the most blame is Gov. 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 are critical to continued job creation, economic growth and roadway safety. However, the current state administration is dragging its feet and it is not expediting these critical infrastructure projects, which are literally shovel ready.

About the author: Aaron Stene is interested in transportation infrastructure and resides in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island.


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