Next phase of Bayfront Trails pushed back

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Danny Lee walks his dog, Koa, down the Bayfront Trails next to Bayfront Park in Hilo on Tuesday.

A second phase of the Hilo Bayfront Trails project will not be completed until next year at the earliest.

The Hilo Bayfront Trails is a decade-long plan to build nearly six miles of public pedestrian trails connecting the Hilo Bayfront to Hilo Harbor and the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

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The first phase of the trails project was completed in late 2016 and consists of three sections — one connecting Mooheau Park to Pauahi Street, another connecting Pauhi Street to the Bayfront canoe hale, and a third connecting Pauahi Street to the Bayfront soccer fields. The three sections are about a mile in length combined.

Although the second phase, completing a loop with the existing Bayfront soccer fields section, is planned to be much shorter than the first — only 2,100 feet, less than half the length of phase one — it has been subject to several delays over the years. Most recently, in late 2020, initial bids for the project came in considerably over the project’s $440,000 budget, stalling the project as the county considered its options.

Barett Otani, executive assistant to Mayor Mitch Roth, said the timeframe of the project now depends on whether it is awarded a Transportation Alternatives Program grant from the state Department of Transportation.

“We’ve applied for a TAP grant in partnership with the Bayfront Trails Association for a total of $846,000, which is enough to complete the entire second phase,” Otani said.

Because TAP grants require a 20% funding match by the county, the total funding will reach just over $1 million, which Otani said might be enough to reach the lowest bid made for the project last year, although he noted that the cost of construction materials has only gone up in recent years.

Otani said the DOT will award the grant in August. If the Bayfront Trails project is the recipient of the grant, he said the project could potentially begin construction right away, but added that the county might seek additional funding sources as well.

In any event, Otani said construction of the project will take five to six months to complete.

Meanwhile, the first draft of plans for a third phase, which would extend the trail through the Wailoa River State Recreation Area, will be completed by the end of July, Otani said.

Jessica Thompson, executive director for pedestrian advocacy group People’s Advocacy for Trails Hawaii, said the project is more important now than ever.

“We’re coming out of COVID, and we need to re-evaluate our priorities,” Thompson said. “There’s more demand now for safe bicycling and walking trails, especially considering a lot of our roads were not designed with the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists in mind.”

PATH launched a social media campaign Tuesday called Building Better Ways for Hawaii, which aims to raise awareness about the delayed Bayfront Trails project and other trails around the island.

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“Maybe people don’t know about this project, and we’re hoping that by sharing it with the county, we’ll get something done,” Thompson said. “It’s something the county needs to invest in if we’re going to hit our clean energy goals by 2045.”

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

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