Better pavement on state highways, safer bridges and advanced traffic signals to ease congestion are some of the projects in Hawaii that could get a boost thanks to the $1.2 trillion bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that passed last fall.

Hawaii is expected to receive about $2.5 billion from that act spread out over the next five years. The largest share, about $1.2 billion, will go to improvements on state highways.

Much of that highway money will go toward funding a long list of improvement projects that already have been approved by the federal government and the state Department of Transportation Highways Division.

Federal infrastructure funds are already going to projects to help repair Hawaii’s roads and mitigate against the effects of climate change and coastal erosion. Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat/2022

The DOT already has set aside $67 million in infrastructure act funds to help pay for ongoing roadwork, analysis of bridge repairs, new traffic signals and crash analysis systems.

Deputy Highways Director Ed Sniffen said the department chose the projects from those already included in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program.

“We didn’t take this as a boon to change directions,” Sniffen said. “We made sure to focus on projects already in the program, already being worked on.”

Some of those projects include repaving sections of the H-1 and other Oahu highways with material that could last almost three times as long as normal asphalt, according to Sniffen.

Also on the list are safety upgrades including new rumble strips and a high friction surface treatment at various locations on Oahu to prevent severe car crashes. The DOT project list indicates those could be installed on highway ramps selected on the basis of crash statistics and along parts of the Likelike Highway.

The DOT is also putting about $245,000 in IIJA funds toward a new crash analysis system that could collect real-time data from police departments.

Improved traffic signals on Oahu that could react to changes in traffic patterns to help reduce congestion could also receive $3 million in IIJA funds.

The $67 million set aside for ongoing highway projects comes from a disbursement of $224 million from the IIJA. The DOT needs to come up with a plan to spend the rest of those funds by the end of September.

Deadlines on when exactly the states need to actually spend all their infrastructure act dollars varies by program. Disbursements for highway funds will be made in October of each year to coincide with the start of the new federal fiscal year, according to the White House.

 

This table from the state DOT shows how much money the state and each county is expected to get in highways funds. Hawaii Department of Transportation

In 2021, before the IIJA went into effect, the state received $185 million in federal highway funds.

“It’s a great step up, but it’s not life changing,” Sniffen said of the increased funds. “We will soak up those funds into needs immediately.”

Reports in years past have put the cost of fixing Hawaii’s infrastructure and retirement systems at upwards of $88 billion. The DOT has estimated that the cost of protecting seaside highways from coastal erosion could put the state back $15 billion.

Some coastal projects on Maui and in Windward Oahu already have been funded through earmarks from Hawaii’s Congressional delegation.

The state also is expected to get $67 million this year for bridge repairs in the islands, which is separate from those highway funds. Sniffen said those would likely be spent on fixing the Kolekole, Nanue, Hakalua and Wailuku Bridges along with the four bridges along the Big Island’s Hamakua coast.

Here’s a look at how the DOT spent its infrastructure act dollars so far.

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