(UPDATE – Please see corrections provided by Kona resident Aaron Stene below)
Mayor Billy Kenoi invites the public to a ceremony this Saturday, June 23 when the County of Hawai‘i will bless the $30.5 million Ane Keohokālole Highway. The 2.5-mile highway will be open to traffic later Saturday afternoon.
Ane Keohokālole Highway runs parallel and about a mile mauka of the Queen Ka‘ahumanu Highway from Palani Road to Hina Lani Street in Kaloko. It is named after the mother of Lili‘uokalani, the last monarch of the Hawaiian Kingdom. A large portion of the land for the highway was donated by the Queen Lili‘uokalani Trust.
“The Ane Keohokālole Highway is an incredible example of teamwork and cooperation between government, the private sector and cultural and environmental organizations,” said Mayor Billy Kenoi. “But most importantly, it could not have been accomplished without the support of our West Hawai‘i community.”
The $30.5 million highway represents the largest expenditure of American Recovery & Reinvestment Act money in Hawai‘i. It is also the first major road in Kona to be built by Hawai‘i County since statehood. Ground was broken on the first phase on March 30, 2011, and was originally planned as a mile and a half of highway from Palani Road to the West Hawai‘i Civic Center.
The county notified the Hawai‘i Island Burial Council and Native Hawaiian community early on in the process, and worked closely with cultural descendants to ensure proper treatment of Native Hawaiian remains if found along the corridor. Working with Federal Highways Administration officials, a project team was able to make design modifications that assured the remains were preserved in place.
Project planner Belt Collins Hawai‘i worked on the design of the highway in parallel with the environmental and cultural processes. In November 2010, the project received a finding of no significant impact. The process, which normally takes as long as two years, was accomplished in eight months.
Put out to bid in December 2010, the construction contract was awarded to Nan Inc. of Honolulu and called for two lanes from Palani Road to Kealakehe Parkway, as well as the ground work for a future phase from Kealakehe Parkway to Hina Lani Street. But deft management of the project by the County’s Department of Public Works saved almost $3 million, and that was applied to the cost of finishing an additional mile, linking the road to Hina Lani Street.
“The connection to Hina Lani Street is a tremendous addition to this project,” said Mayor Kenoi. “This highway will make an immediate and lasting positive impact on West Hawai‘i residents who have long deserved traffic relief.”
Ane Keohokālole Highway will also facilitate the development of the state’s Kamakana Village affordable-housing project, commercial development by the Queen Lili‘uokalani Trust to support children’s programs, and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands’ expansion of La‘i‘ōpua Village and its planned community center.
It is also good news for those who rely on public transportation to get to and from work, shopping and play. County Mass Transit has committed to establish a Hele-On bus loop using Ane Keohokālole Highway and the Queen Ka‘ahumanu Highway.
“We haven’t just built a road,” said Mayor Kenoi. “By opening up opportunities for affordable homes, shelters for the homeless, places to work and play, a way to get to college, commuter buses and bike paths, we are facilitating the creation of a safe and vibrant community.”
The Ane Keohokālole Highway project also involves preservation efforts at each end of the road. An interpretive center is being built at the Palani Road end of the project, while an initiative to preserve one of Hawai‘i’s last remaining dryland forests is taking place at the Hina Lani Street intersection.
Saturday’s blessing ceremony begins at noon at the West Hawai‘i Civic Center and is open to the public. The ceremony will include representatives from each ahupua‘a the road runs through, as well as members of the Keohokālole family. Lunch will be served. For more information, or to request special accommodations, please call the Mayor’s Office at the West Hawai‘i Civic Center at (808) 323-4444.
Corrections provided by Aaron Stene:
- The cost of constructing this highway was 29.9 million + 4 million allocated to reconstructing Palani Road.
- The entire highway is 3 miles (from Palani Road to Hina-Lani Street) of Palani Road was reconstructed between Henry Street and Queen Kaahumanu
- Ground was broken on March 30, 2010
- EA FONSI finding was announced in November 2009
- The project was put out to bid in December 2009