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    October 2017
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Saddle Road Fatality

A 49-year old Hilo man died following a 2 vehicle crash Saturday morning (October 14), in the district of Hāmākua.

His name is being withheld pending positive identification and notification of his family.

Responding to a 7:21 a.m. call, police determined that a 2001 Dodge Caravan was traveling westbound on the Daniel K. Inouye Highway (Saddle Road), near the 38-mile marker when he was overtaking vehicles and struck a 2015 Honda Fit that was traveling eastbound.

The man who died was taken to the North Hawaii Community Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 8:42 a.m.

The driver of the Honda, a 36-year old female of Mountain View, was also transported to the North Hawaii Community Hospital for her injuries and was listed in critical condition.

Police believe that speed was a factor and the man was not wearing a seatbelt. The female was wearing a seatbelt.

Police do not believe that drugs or alcohol were factors in this crash.

An autopsy has been ordered to determine the exact cause of death.

Police ask anyone who witnessed the crash to call Officer Casey Cabral at (808) 961-2329. Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call the islandwide Crime Stoppers at (808) 961-8300.

This is the 27th traffic fatality this year compared with 23 at this time last year.

Saddle Road Closed in Both Directions Due to Accident

This is a Civil Defense Road Closure Update for Saturday, October 14 at 9:30 AM.

Hawaii Police Department reports the Daniel K. Inouye Highway/Saddle Road is closed in both directions due to a traffic collision.

Motorists will be able to drive up to the 9 mile marker above Hilo, and up to the Waiki’i entrance above Waimea. Please use alternate routes.

Have a safe day. This is your Hawaii County Civil Defense.

New Phase of Daniel K. Inouye Highway Opens

The Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) are pleased to announce the opening of the final phase of reconstruction on the east side of Saddle Road, now known as the Daniel K. Inouye Highway. The improvement connects the existing highway near milepost 11 to the west end of the Puainako Street extension.

“The importance of the combined Saddle Road Improvement projects as a cross-island route cannot be overstated. It is a huge accomplishment,” said Governor David Ige. “Senator Inouye’s vision when he initiated the Saddle Road Community Task Force in 1993 is an excellent example of government and the community working together to benefit generations to come.”

“This project was of great importance to Dan as it connects east and west, providing safer access for all travelers, as well as economic opportunities for Hawaii Island residents. He tried to make every groundbreaking and celebration, dating back to 2004. I am pleased that the 48-mile road is complete and so honored that it bears Dan’s name,” said Ms. Irene Hirano Inouye, wife of the late Senator Daniel K. Inouye.

Saddle Road/Daniel K. Inouye Highway task force committee being recognized during the ceremony. DOT Photo

The Saddle Road East Side project encompassed a total of nearly six miles of highway, reconstructing approximately three miles of the existing Daniel K. Inouye Highway, upgrading the roadway to modern design standards and including safety features such as 8-foot shoulder lanes, straighter alignment and a climbing lane, and adding three miles of new road. The project also increased the overall highway capacity and removed potential conflicts between military operations and public traffic. The cost was $57 million, which was within the allocated budget.

This joint project between HDOT and FHWA presented unique challenges such as varying subsurface conditions from aʻa, pahoehoe, dense basalt, and volcanic ash and the need to address precautionary measures necessary for containment, treatment and placement of cleared timber to help prevent the spread of the Rapid Ohia Death fungus.

Funding for the Saddle Road projects was made possible through the U.S. Department of the Army Defense Access Road and Ecosystem Management Programs, U.S. Congress, and Hawaii Department of Transportation.

“The completion of the Saddle Road East Side project provides a safe, efficient, cross-island route with access across Hawaii between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa,” said FHWA’s Central Federal Lands project manager Mike Will. “In addition, the use of the Pohakuloa Training Area quarry resources is estimated to have saved approximately $20 million of state and federal funding.”

Previous phases of the Saddle Road Improvements widened and aligned more than 41-miles of road. The east side phase opened today makes for a total of nearly 48 miles of road that has been improved to modern standards at a total approximate cost of $316.5 million, of which the U.S. Army contributed more than $100 million. Saddle Road was initially built as a one-lane road by the U.S. Army in 1942 to connect military training facilities.

The Daniel K. Inouye Highway, State Route 200, begins at the outskirts of Hilo near milepost 6 and extends westward to Mamalahoa Highway State Route 190. The road passes through the saddle between the Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea volcanoes. The Daniel K. Inouye Highway climbs nearly 5,500 vertical feet from its eastern terminus to its mid-point. The rainfall gradient along the highway ranges from 10 inches to 200 inches per year, which posed an additional challenge for crews during construction. The 2013 Hawaii Legislature passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 43 to rename the upgraded section of Hawaii Saddle Road to the Daniel K. Inouye Highway.

Speed Limit to Increase 60 MPH on Portions of Daniel K. Inouye Highway (Saddle Road)

The Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) will be replacing speed limit signs on the Daniel K. Inouye Highway (also known as Saddle Road) beginning Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017.

Approximately 70 new speed limit signs will reflect an increase in speed limit from 55 mph to 60 mph. The increased speed limit takes effect Feb. 7 from mile post 11.88 on the Daniel K. Inouye Highway to its intersection with Mamalahoa Highway (Route 190).

“I listened to my constituents who asked for a speed limit change on the Daniel K. Inouye Highway and I am pleased we were able to make it happen for the people of Hawaii County,” said State Senator Lorraine Inouye, Senate Transportation Committee Chair.

Motorists are required to follow the posted speed limit, which remains 40 mph at the Pohakuloa Training Area and 45 mph between mile post 19.57 and 20. A gradual decrease in speed approaching the intersection with Mamalahoa Highway (Route 190) will also remain in place.

Crews will work from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the shoulder lanes starting from the west, or Kona, side of Daniel K. Inouye Highway moving towards Hilo. No lane closures are anticipated as part of the sign replacements.

All speed limit signs in areas affected by the increase should be replaced within a week, weather permitting.

HDOT is coordinating with the Hawaii Police Department on this speed limit increase.

Commentary – Highway Legislation Was to Appease Constituents

Senator Lorraine Inouye was one of the co-sponsors of the legislation
that would increase the speed  limit on the Daniel K. Inouye Highway to 60MPH between m.m 12 and m.m 51 -except for the segment by Mauna Kea State Park.

Inouye Highway 2 by Aaron Stene

I had reservations about this bill because HDOT should  have sole authority to set highway speed limits. The state legislature shouldn’t be politicizing what the highway speeds are on a certain highway.

I e-mailed Senator Inouye’s office three amendments to SB2375 despite my reservations. The first amendment would change the east side start of the speed limit increase from m.m 19 to m.m 12.  This change was included in the final bill transmitted to the governor. However, she disregarded  the other two amendments I suggested.

These proposed amendments would’ve obligated the HDOT to review the current speed limits at m.m 18, m.m 36-40, amd m.m 39, and increased the speed limit on m.m 6 to m.m 11 segment after the highway is improved to Federal Highway standards by August 27, 2017.

Senator Inouye stated this bill wouldn’t pass the legislature if these
amendments were added, which doesn’t make any sense. She didn’t want to infringe on the HDOT’s obligation to follow Federal Highway standards. I pointed out to her that requiring the HDOT increase the speed limit on the Daniel K. Inouye Highway already infringed on the HDOT’s obligations, so her argument doesn’t hold water.

I strongly believe the sole purpose of this legislation was to appease
her constituents, who probably complained about the county police’s
incessant speed traps up on the Daniel K. Inouye Highway. This proposed legislation shouldn’t be the way the speed limits are set up there.

Aaron Stene
Kailua-Kona

Low Bidder Announced for Daniel K. Inouye Highway Project

Sterling Construction Company, Inc. today announced that its affiliate, Road and Highway Builders, LLC (RHB), is apparent low bidder on a $61.0 million Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) project to perform reconstruction work on a 6.6 mile stretch of the Daniel K. Inouye Highway on the “Big Island” of Hawaii. The project, which will begin in the first quarter of 2016 and be completed in approximately two years, will require 800,000 cubic yards of excavation, construction of several large concrete structures, and 80,000 tons of asphalt paving.

Saddle Road earlier in project.  Photo courtesy of Aaron Stene

Saddle Road earlier in project. Photo courtesy of Aaron Stene

Paul J. Varello, Sterling’s Chief Executive Officer, commented, “The Daniel K. Inouye Highway, known to locals as Saddle Road, was built in the 1940’s to connect the major population centers on the east and west coasts of the island. In 2004, FHWA began a multi-phase project to upgrade the original 48-mile route to meet the current standards of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. RHB completed one of the phases between 2009 and 2011.

The current phase requires a high degree of experience and sophisticated construction capabilities given the highway’s age and its maximum elevation of over 6,600 feet. We are pleased to have been selected to rebuild a portion of this important and historic roadway, and look forward to collaborating with the FHWA on other projects throughout the Hawaiian Islands.”

Sterling is a leading heavy civil construction company that specializes in the building and reconstruction of transportation and water infrastructure projects in Texas, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, California, Hawaii, and other states where there are profitable construction opportunities. Its transportation infrastructure projects include highways, roads, bridges and light rail. Its water infrastructure projects include water, wastewater and storm drainage systems.

Commentary – Daniel K. Inouye Highway Extension Should Remain on the STIP

The proposed Daniel K. Inouye Highway extension should remain on the STIP in lieu of the Kawaihae bypass.

The Daniel K. Inouye Highway.  Photo by Aaron Stene

The Daniel K. Inouye Highway. Photo by Aaron Stene

Yes, I know the Kamuela community has tried to advance the Kawaihae bypass for a very long time. However, I believe the time to construct this highway has passed.

The cost of the Kawaihae bypass has increased to 280 million dollars. HDOT estimated the cost of this project to be about 130 million dollars back in 2009. I don’t think its prudent to commit this much federal highway  funds to one project, especially when there is other highway projects statewide in dire need of funding

The Federal Highway Trust Fund is practically insolvent. This means there will be less Federal highway funds available over the next couple years. This is why we need to take a long, hard look at what highway projects should move forward and which ones shouldn’t.

I firmly believe constructing a mini-bypass road around the dry side of Kamuela, doing safety improvements to the existing Kawaihae Road, and constructing the  Daniel K. Inouye Highway Extension will help ease Kawaihae Road’s traffic and safety deficiencies.

Aaron Stene
Kailua-Kona

Commentary – Central Federal Lands Highway Division’s Lack of Transparency

The Central Federal Lands Highway Division has partnered with the Hawaii Department of Transportation to do improvements to eleven bridges statewide, along with three upcoming Daniel K. Inouye Highway phases (SR200(3),  Daniel K. Inouye Highway Extension and west side Daniel K. Inouye Highway runaway escape ramps).

Mrs. Irene Inouye, Governor Neil Abercrombie and Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi dedicate the former Saddle Road as the Daniel K. Inouye Highway.

Mrs. Irene Inouye, Governor Neil Abercrombie and Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi
dedicate the former Saddle Road as the Daniel K. Inouye Highway.

This CFLHD/HDOT partnership has already resulted in much-needed improvements to 40.27 out of 45.97 miles to the Daniel K. Inouye Highway. This is something everyone involved can be proud of. However, the HDOT and CFLHD need to do a better job engaging the public. These
agencies have done a poor job thus far. I had to get updates through the project engineer between 2004-2011 because the CFLHD’s Daniel K. Inouye Highway project website was never updated.

Dave Gedeon, the said project engineer up until late 2011, then passed me off to Mike Will. He and Mark Lloyd provided updates up until mid-2013. Then he stated I had to go through the Hawaii Department of Transportation public affairs office for any additional updates. I had to go through other sources since then, as its nearly impossible to get any response from the HDOT public affairs office.

I escalated my complaints to Anthony Foxx, the Secretary of Transportation and Gregory Nadeau, the acting FHWA administrator, recently. Mr. Nadeau reiterated that I should go through the HDOT public affairs office and told me the CFLHD’s Daniel K. Inouye Highway website would be updated on a regular basis.

I highly doubt the CFLHD or HDOT will follow through on Mr. Nadeau’s promises, which is why I am writing this commentary. The CFLHD and HDOT need to do a better job engaging the public’s participation in these projects.

Aaron Stene
Kailua-Kona

Commentary – New Daniel K. Inouye Highway is Huge Improvement

The newly christened Daniel K. Inouye Highway is huge improvement over the old Saddle Road. 40.27 miles out of 45.97 miles has been upgraded to Federal Highway standards. The remaining 5.7 miles, which is located above Hilo, is on hold.

Photo by Aaron Stene

Photo by Aaron Stene

The acquisition of the right of way is stalled and there isn’t any funding allocated for this phase.  Both of  these facets go hand and hand. This project can’t be funded unless the right of way is fully acquired.

The Hawaii Department of Transportation asked the Land Transportation Division of the State Attorney General’s Office to start condemnation proceedings against the three holdout landowners in 2012. The State Attorney General’s office hasn’t heeded the HDOT’s request except to ask for more information in July 2013.

I’m deeply frustrated by the lack of urgency in this matter.  The last Daniel K. Inouye Highway phase should on a fast track, but its stuck in bureaucratic hell instead. The Hawaii Department of Transportation needs to expedite the land acquisition, so this much-needed project can proceed and Senator Inouye’s vision fulfilled.

Aaron Stene

Commentary – “Hawaii Department of Transportation Needs To Do a Better Job In Disseminating Project Information…”

The Hawaii Department of Transportation needs to do a better job in disseminating project information to the public at large. The HDOT public affairs office seems to be understaffed, as it takes awhile to get a response and sometimes the information is not correct.

Saddle Road Extension Map

Saddle Road Extension Map

For example, recent articles about the Daniel K. Inouye Highway project contained inaccurate information concerning total cost, start location of last east side phase among other mistakes. I’ve had to jump through hoops to double check that my information was correct as a result.

The HDOT public affairs office response queue times have also increased. I recently asked when the Kuakini Highway widening EIS meeting would be held. I received a response stating it would take about a week to respond.

These issues started cropping up about mid-year when the CFLHD, HDOT and FHWA referred all my inquiries regarding the Queen Kaahumanu Highway widening and Saddle Road projects to Caroline Slyuter, the HDOT PIO. I had to get any updates through alternative means because it usually took several days or even longer to get any updates through the public affairs office.

The CFLHD and HDOT have websites for the Daniel K. Inouye Highway and Queen Kaahumanuy Highway widening projects. Both of these agencies need to do a better job keeping these websites updated, so the public is informed about these important highway projects. This would be a great first step in properly engaging the public.

Aaron Stene
Kailua-Kona

Commentary – Aaron Stene On the New Daniel K. Inouye Highway

The Central Federal Lands Highway Division and Hawaii Department of Transportation, among others, should be commended for their efforts to improve Saddle Road. The recently opened segment between m.m 41 and m.m 51.27, along with the previous phases (m.m 11 and m.m 41), is a huge improvement over the old Saddle Road.

The Daniel K. Inouye Highway opened this weekend.  Photo by Aaron Stene

The Daniel K. Inouye Highway opened this weekend. Photo by Aaron Stene

The latter roadway was riddled with potholes and serious design deficiencies, which caused an immeasurable number of accidents and fatalities.  In addition, the realignment and reconstruction of Saddle Road to a full fledged highway has resulted in a huge time savings in commute times.

I was able to drive between m.m six (top of Puainako Extension) and m.m 51.27 on the Kona side in 56 minutes. My overall time savings was about 26 minutes, so I can’t wait until the last east side Saddle Road phase is complete. It will reduce commute times even more.

Photo by Aaron Stene

Photo by Aaron Stene

I know there is challenges acquiring the right of way for the final SR200(3) phase. However, I’m confident these challenges will be overcome. It is imperative that Senator Dan Inouye’s legacy project is finished.

Aaron Stene

Kailua-Kona

Saddle Road Renamed “Daniel K. Inouye Highway,” Realignment To Mamalahoa Highway Opens

On what would have been the late Sen. Daniel K. Inouye’s 89th birthday, a highway named in his honor has opened to bridge East and West Hawaii.

2013_09_07_Daniel_K_Inouye_Highway_02 Mrs. Irene Inouye, Governor Neil Abercrombie and Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi dedicate the former Saddle Road as the Daniel K. Inouye Highway.

Mrs. Irene Inouye, Governor Neil Abercrombie and Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi
dedicate the former Saddle Road as the Daniel K. Inouye Highway.

The Hawaii Department of Transportation (DOT) today opened the newest section of the former Hawaii Saddle Road, a nine-mile portion from Mile Post 42 to the Mamalahoa Highway (Route 190), which also marked the completion of 41 miles of highway built since the project started construction in 2004.

In honor of Sen. Inouye’s vision and dedication to the project, the 2013 Hawaii Legislature passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 43 to rename the 41-mile upgraded section of Hawaii Saddle Road to the Senator Daniel K. Inouye Highway. Gov. Neil Abercrombie joined members of the Inouye family, former colleagues, and other government officials at the opening and renaming ceremony.

“We have come this far due to the vision Senator Inouye shared with the project’s many partners, including the Saddle Road Task Force, Hawaii Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, and Department of the Army,” Gov. Neil Abercrombie said. “Once one of the most precarious highways in the state, the Senator Daniel K. Inouye Highway is now a safer and more efficient travel route connecting East and West Hawaii communities.”

To date, $290 million dollars has been awarded for construction from federal, state, Department of the Army and other sources.

“During his lifetime, Senator Inouye made incredible contributions to this country and the state of Hawaii, we are honored and pleased that this vital connector for Hawaii Island will carry his name,” said DOT Director Glenn M. Okimoto.

Senator Daniel K. Inouye was an early advocate for rebuilding Saddle Road. He convened a diverse group of cross-island stakeholders as the Saddle Road Task Force.  The Saddle Road Task Force is made up of a dedicated and diverse group of community members who continue to work as liaisons as this project moves towards completion.

Governor Neil Abercrombie, Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi, Mrs. Irene Inouye, and members of the Saddle Road Task Force assist in dedicating the new segment of the former Saddle Road, a nine-mile stretch linking Mile Post 42 to Mamalahoa Highway (Route 190).

Governor Neil Abercrombie, Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi, Mrs. Irene Inouye, and members of the Saddle Road Task Force assist in dedicating the new segment of the former Saddle Road, a nine-mile stretch linking Mile Post 42 to Mamalahoa Highway (Route 190).

“Needless to say, the incredible improvements to Saddle Road are the result of the vision and steadfastness of Senator Inouye,” said Saddle Road Task Force Co-Chair Walter Kunitake. “His determination never wavered, and it is absolutely fitting that this new roadway be named the Daniel K. Inouye Highway.”

The new segment of the realigned highway was opened to the public at 3 p.m.

Saddle Road Background Information

The U.S. Department of the Army constructed the original one-lane Saddle Road in 1942 to provide access to its military training facilities located in the “saddle” between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. Over the intervening years, some widening and paving was done, but no significant improvements were made – leaving many of the existing roadway deficiencies uncorrected.

What began as a military access road has since become an important cross-island connection and also provides the only paved access to the Mauna Kea Science Reserve, Pohakuloa Training Area Base, and Mauna Kea State Park, as well as access to public lands and forest areas for hunting, gathering and ranching.

Construction funding for the Saddle Road project has been made possible through the U.S. Department of the Army Defense Access Road and Ecosystem Management Programs, U.S. Congress, and Hawaii Department of Transportation. Construction of the last remaining portion of Saddle Road project on the east side will be completed as funds become available.