The Daniel K. Inouye Highway extension is making moves on two fronts.
As state lawmakers consider allocating $90 million in capital improvement project funds to extend the cross-island route, known colloquially as Saddle Road, from its current terminus at Mamalahoa Highway to Queen Kaahumanu Highway, federal officials are starting to assess comments on the project’s archaeological inventory survey completed several years ago.
“We have received comments from SHP-D on our Archaeological Inventory Survey, which is very positive. The Section 106 consultation is beginning to show some life after several months of dormancy,” said Project Manager Mike Will with the Federal Highway Administration’s Central Federal Lands Highway Division.
Will said the division is currently “assessing” the comments from the State Historic Preservation Division, and that Section 106 consultation remains underway. The consultation, required when federal money is expended on a project, must be completed in order for the administration to sign off and finalize a draft environmental impact statement that’s been sitting for nearly three years.
“Beyond that, not much has changed from prior briefings,” Will added.
Once completed, and a funding source is committed, a Record of Decision will be issued, completing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process and allowing the project to move forward.
A funding source for the project is currently making its way through the state Legislature.
House Bill 2725 includes $90 million to extend Daniel K. Inouye Highway makai to Queen Kaahumanu Highway. About $85 million would be funded via revenue bond with the remaining $5 million derived from the special fund to finish environmental work, acquire land and construct the road.
The capital improvements project budget measure on Tuesday passed a third reading in the House and was transmitted to the Senate for consideration in that chamber. On Wednesday, the measure was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means, which had yet to set a hearing as of press-time.
Currently, the department is planning to utilize state funds only, though the project remains eligible for federal funding that would cover up to 80% of the cost.
“We are still looking for additional federal funding, through discretionary grant programs, to help us stretch our State dollars,” DOT spokeswoman Shelly Kunishige said Tuesday. “Therefore, we are taking steps necessary to prepare this project to meet all federal requirements should additional federal funds become available. These steps include appropriation of federal and state funds, inclusion of the project on the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, and completion of the federal and state environmental processes.”
According to the draft EIS released in April 2017, the approximate 10.5-mile extension is expected to take about two years to construct once work is underway.
There’s currently three alignments in consideration. One option would have the road approximately follow the boundary between the North Kona and South Kohala districts. The others would take the road farther north and connect to Waikoloa Road close to mile marker 3, with the third option also using 2 miles of Waikoloa Road west of that mile marker.