By Aaron Stene – I’m very disappointed with how Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s administration has managed the widening of Queen Kaahumanu Highway and last Hilo side phase of Saddle Road. The Section 106 consultation process between the Native Hawaiian Organizations and FHWA/DOT has entered its twentieth month.
The FHWA and DOT is keeping the public in the dark regarding these consultations, so no one knows where things stand with this project. The Queen Kaahumanu Highway website hasn’t been updated since September 25th, 2012.
The Queen Kaahumanu Highway widening should’ve been completed three years ago, but it is on hold due to various issues. There may be a light at the end of tunnel though. The HDOT hopes to break ground on this project in August, according to the April Board of Water Supply meeting minutes. However, the calendar isn’t a friend of this latest start date.
Several outstanding issues need to be resolved, such as the completion of the ongoing Section 106 consultation process, before this project can move forward.
The last east side Saddle Road phase (between m.m 5.3 and m.m 11) is the other project botched by Governor Abercrombie’s administration. The HDOT asked the State Attorney General’s office to begin condemnation proceedings against the three remaining landowners in 2012, whose land is required for this new highway.
The Land Transportation Division of the Attorney General’s office has yet to initiate any of these lawsuits, as of January 2013. The HDOT recently submitted the last Saddle Road phase for a FY 2013 TIGER grant.
I’m deeply concerned this right of way issue may influence the chances of this phase being awarded a TIGER grant.
I’ve tried to convey my concerns to the Honolulu HDOT and FHWA powers that be. However, they’ve ignored nearly all my e-mails regarding these two much-needed projects.
Aaron Stene is a resident of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
Here is the response to this editorial by Glenn M. Okimoto is the Director of the Hawaii Department of Transportation
The state Department of Transportation respects the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 amended in 2006, and the National Environmental Policy Act, along with all state environmental, cultural and historic laws that guide projects such as this one.
While we had hoped to have already started construction on this project, it is important to continue with the consultation process in order for all parties to come to an agreement which will find a balance that is acceptable and beneficial to all.
At this time, federal funding remains in place for this important project that will not only relieve congestion but improve safety along this corridor.
We sincerely hope, and are cautiously optimistic, that all parties can come to an agreement soon and that we can start construction. Because the process is ongoing, we will not be able to announce a firm start date until these processes are worked out and resolved. We would like to thank the community for their patience as we continue to work toward a resolution.