Hawaii freeway conditions and costs are ‘disgraceful’

article top
HONOLULU’S H-1 FREEWAY – Photo: Emily Metcalf

BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – HONOLULU –  Hawaii’s ranking among best American highway systems — we’re No. 48 — was a surprise to Cliff Slater, a transportation expert who runs HonoluluTraffic.com.

“How did Hawaii rank so high?” Slater joked.


The Reason Foundation study, released today, also ranks Hawaii as No. 50 (for the poor condition of its urban interstate pavement) and bridges (No. 49).

The “big news,” Slater said: Hawaii’s ranking at No. 49 for administrative costs per mile.

“We are eight times the average state and 40 times the cost of the average of the best five states,” Slater said. “That is disgraceful.”

Slater noted Hawaii’s roads cost twice as much as Utah and Arizona’s to maintain.

Cliff Slater (photo by Mel Ah Ching)

“We cannot justify that in any way,” Slater said.

“The bureaucracy in the Hawaii state Department of Transportation is hopeless. Nothing gets done. It is a welfare department,” Slater added.

But Hawaii faces some unique costs. The state must transport its heavy machinery and asphalt to six islands — Oahu, Hawaii Island, Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kauai — in four counties by ship, increasing the expense of road construction and maintenance, said Panos Prevedouros, a professor of engineering at the University of Hawaii.

But Prevedouros, who consults worldwide on both government and private transportation projects, said part of the problem stems from Hawaii’s mismanagement.

For more than eight years, Tesoro Hawaii stopped producing asphalt here because the state and county could not give the company a solid projection on the amount of asphalt needed each year, Prevedouros said.

Panos Prevedouros, PHD

The state now imports its asphalt from California at considerable cost.

There are ways to improve Hawaii’s ranking, Prevedouros said, by improving the methodology and procedures so that pavement lasts longer and is maintained in a consistent and continuous manner.

In other categories, the state scored better. The Reason Foundation’s 20th Annual Highway Report on the Performance of State Highway Systems put Hawaii at No. 28 in urban interstate congestion and No. 20 in fatality rates.

A widening gap is emerging between most states that are making progress and a few states that are finding it difficult to improve, the authors note. North Dakota, Kansas, Wyoming, New Mexico and Montana are in the lead for cost-effectiveness ratings, while Alaska, Rhode Island, Hawaii, California and New Jersey came in at the bottom.

See the full study.

See details about Hawaii here.






  1. Several years ago, I drove from Pocatello, ID. down through Utah, NW corner of AZ, and finally to Las Vegas on 87? The best section of highway the entire 400+(?) miles was the NW corner of AZ! The highway was clean, the median barrier headlight baffles were ALL intact, and the pavement was in excellent condition. This section of the highway must've been at least a couple of hundred miles from the nearest AZ base yard and yet the overall condition was excellent. Compare that with H1 and Pali Highway (inboound). Both sections are smack in the middle of Honolulu and yet the condition is horrible. Both sections see high usage compared to the NW section of that AZ highway. I see no plausible excuse for the condition of Hawaii's highways!

    By the way, what's up with the "slurry sealing" of Pali Highway (inbound)? The work was started and all of a sudden work was suspended and the equipment demobilized! What's up with that? I don't want any excuses from that DOT spokeswoman, JUST FIX THE DAMN HIGHWAY!!

  2. We need to hire and follow the lead of who ever is in charge of the roads on the Bid Island. I just got back from a week long trip, and their road were beautiful! I drove around the whole island. Smooth!

  3. Oh! Since I wrote about highway headlight baffles on the stretch of AZ highway, comparing that to the baffles on the Pali Highway, the baffles at the hairpin turn are a disgrace. Also, the section of baffles along the H3 Highway in the Mokapu area were removed about 3 years ago and hasn't been replaced. This for a highway (H3) which cost $90M/mile back when it was built. How long has it been fully operational? The highway is already showing major signs of deterioration in the few years it's been in use. The State DOT hasn't a clue as far as what it takes to maintain our highways! Maybe the department should be privatized and let some private contractor take it over.

  4. LOL I just sing country road every time I hit a bad spot, I'm tired of buying trucks which are the only vehicles that fare well with our road conditions! 🙁

  5. my wife and I don't own a car.we ride bicycles and ride TheBus when we have to go far and I do have to agree some of the roads are in bad shape.they are doing repair work on king st. in Chinatown and few other locations.traffic is bad.parts of Dillingham not good.

  6. Seems like none or very few of the roads on Oahu are any good. I too ride a bicycle a lot and the roads just wear you out because they are so rough and uneven, not to mention the potholes. I dont understand it and suspect it must be largely due to the incompetence, corruption, and the uncaring attitude of those responsible. On the mainland, even in areas where you have severe freeze and thaw conditions, the roads are better built and maintained. I have seen better roads in Guam.

    While I'm at it, I would also like to mention what a colossal waste of the taxpayers money it is to have a police officer at virtually every road construction project. First, very rarely do you see them get out of the car or off of their okole to bother to direct traffic. Second, except in instances where they could/should direct traffic, they dont do anything except watch the construction workers and BS with them. This has to be nothing more than a make work project to boost their income (probably something the unions demand) and cost the taxpayers more money. Again, you dont see this in other parts of the country.

  7. Maybe genuine prohibition indicates going too far but limitations on liquor would certainly create the distinction. Alcohol is not regarded risky by most individuals and that's what actually creates it risky. It's an obsessive material, liquor use prices are increasing by the season, some type of prohibition creates a lot of feeling to me. paving contractors boca raton

  8. The roads on Hawaii, or at least Oahu are absolutely pathetic and embarrassing!

    Don’t get me wrong, I think Oahu is a beautiful place to live with some amazing gorgeous scenic areas and beach fronts. However, two things plague this island; road conditions and over-population. The roads are so pathetic here on Oahu that I constantly take longer routes that don’t have such ridiculous road conditions. Pot holes and uneven roads are a huge problem on this rock, and left unchecked cost the daily driver thousands every year in car repair. Every one of the three highways on this rock looks like they were never properly finished. And then there are random spots where it looks like cement was thrown from a bucket and left to dry on the highway…really? Bottom line is the state and DOT/DMV need to fix these third world country roads and make it safer to drive around.

Comments are closed.