Calling it so much more than just infrastructure, Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi joined state and federal officials Monday at the blessing of the latest section of the Saddle Road to be completed.
“This is a connector for the families and businesses of Hawaii Island,” said Mayor Kenoi, who spoke at the event which celebrated the completion of the eight-mile stretch between mile-marker 19 and mile-marker 11. “It enhances our quality of life.”
Road and Highway Builders LLC of Sparks, Nev., completed this section on time and on budget. The $32.8 million contract was awarded by the state Department of Transportation in September 2009 with the project starting in November 2009. The contractors likely could have gotten the job done a bit earlier, but ran into a stretch of bad weather a few months ago which delayed the project a few weeks.
“This road gets us where we need to be, and will do it safely,” said Mayor Kenoi, who recognized the commitment of U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye to the Saddle Road project. “From everyone on Hawaii Island, we extend a deep mahalo.”
The Saddle Road project, which began in the mid 1990s, has so far produced 31 miles of highway, which replaces a narrow and winding road created in the 1940s following the attack on Pearl Harbor. According to Sen. Inouye, the road was created not just as a cross-island passage, but to provide access to a prisoner-of-war camp located on “saddle” between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.
“I bet you didn’t know that,” said Sen. Inouye, who joined Mayor Kenoi, state Transportation Director Glenn Okimoto, state Sen. Gil Kahele and other dignitaries in untying a ti-leaf lei that stretched across the entire width of the road, which has three lanes in the mm-18 area.
Sen. Inouye said the continuing construction of the Saddle Road fulfills a commitment he made to himself in 1964 when he decided to devote his life to to public service. The longest-serving senator in the United States said his commitments to Hawaii Island were to bring east and west together, create a four-year college in Hilo and to improve the Saddle Road.
“I’ll be around, believe me,” said Sen. Inouye, speaking to the 80 or so people who gathered in the cold and rainy weather, “until this is finished.”
Just as soon as this blessing was completed, officials moved to the west side of the Saddle Road, where Kirkland Construction is expected to begin civil engineering work on the second-to-last leg of the Saddle Road, from mile 41, sometimes called the “Steps” or “Girl Scout Hill,” to mile 14 of Mamalahoa south of Waikoloa Road.
Kirkland was recently awarded the $33.7 million contract and could be given the notice to proceed in the next few days. The company, which plans to use local construction workers for a majority of the work will have until June 2013 to complete the 9.6 miles of earthwork. A contract to pave that portion of the road will be advertised at a later date.
So far, the Saddle Road project has spent $250 million and employed 2,000 people at one time or another. By the time it is completed, officials estimate that 2,700 people will have worked on this project.
- Senator Inouye Tours New Highway, Interpretive Center (damontucker.com)
- Mayor Kenoi in Washington DC – Elected to Advisory Board of United States Conference of Mayors (damontucker.com)
- West Hawaii Business Park Project Update (aaronstene.com)