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.

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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.”

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“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.