Kalanianaole work expected to be complete by end of 2Q

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Cars drive down Kalanianaole Avenue, which is under construction, on Wednesday in Hilo.

A long-delayed project to improve Kalanianaole Avenue might be finally completed by the middle of this year despite new changes to the project.

At a Wednesday meeting of the Hawaii County Council, Keone Thompson, civil engineer with the County Department of Public Works, said the roadwork on a one-mile stretch Kalanianaole Avenue, which was previously scheduled to be completed by the end of 2020, is on track to finish by the end of 2021’s second quarter.


However, the project was a source of contention at a meeting of the county Finance Committee on Jan. 5, when Thompson and Public Works Director Ikaika Rodenhurst discussed a bill allocating $10 million in funds to the project. At the Jan. 5 meeting, Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy directed a series of pointed questions at Thompson, demanding answers for why the project — which began in 2018 — remains incomplete and whether the $10 million allocation is in addition to the $18.5 million already allocated for the roadwork.

Thompson assured the committee that the $10 million does not add to the cost of the project. Rather, he explained, certain necessary changes to the project require that the county reopen bids for contracts, using a portion of the $18.5 million already allocated.

Finance Director Deanna Sako said on Jan. 5 that, because the final cost of the project depends on the result of the bidding process, she and Thompson were hesitant to say whether the final cost will exceed $18.5 million. However, Sako assured Lee Loy that the cost will not balloon as high as $28 million, as Lee Loy feared.

Thompson explained that the changes to the project include the use of a concrete, rather than asphalt, base for the road, which he said will be less likely to compress and damage a Hawaiian Electric fuel line under the roadway.

Lee Loy requested more consistent updates and a list of project milestones from Thompson and Rodenhurst at the Jan. 5 meeting, saying that she worries that projects expanding far beyond their initial scope — both financially and temporally — may become a trend.

The sluggishness of the project has been a thorn in the side of residents who have had to deal with the deteriorating road and then long periods of slow construction.

Keaukaha resident Tom Goltz compared the road to a jungle trail and said its condition is unacceptable, considering the high volume of traffic it gets.

“You know, I love Hilo because it’s not like the rest of America, but it’s been left in a horrible state,” Goltz said. “There hasn’t been any construction there for two months.”


“I pay my taxes, and I’m happy to do so, but I would like some services down here in return,” Goltz concluded.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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