Commentary – “The Coupe Family Single-Handedly Held Up the Mamalahoa Highway Bypass for 11 Years”

The acquisition the of right of way for highway projects is an ongoing issue for the State and County of Hawaii it seems.  Two projects come to mind; the second phase of the Mamalahoa Highway bypass and the final east side phase of the Daniel K. Inouye Highway.

Inouye Highway Photo by Aaron Stene

Daniel K. Inouye Highway.  Photo by Aaron Stene

The Coupe family single-handedly held up the Mamalahoa  Highway bypass for 11 years. They fought the condemnation of  1,500 feet of their property all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The US Supreme Court declined to hear the Coupe’s petition, which ended their battle and paved the way for the county to acquire the necessary right of way for this much-needed highway.

I’m deeply concerned the final east side phase of the Daniel K. Inouye Highway is facing the same fate. Three holdout landowners (Marvin Arruda, Richard Alderson and Rick Towill) refuse to convey part of their lands for this 5.7 mile highway. These parcels are located on the Puna side of the Puainako Street Extension and Country Club Drive.

I’ve tried to ask the Land Transportation Division of the State Attorney General’s office where things stand with the right of way acquisition for this phase, but they refuse to acknowledge my e-mails and hide behind attorney-client privilege.  The Hawaii Department of Transportation response to my inquiries isn’t much better.

The final east side phase of the Daniel K. Inouye Highway is currently unfunded.  I firmly believe its important to finalize the right of way acquisition, so this phase is shovel ready when funding is available.

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.

Mamalahoa Highway Bypass Now Open 24/7

The Mamalahoa Highway Bypass is now open 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide much-needed traffic relief to the families of South Kona.countylogo

The bypass is located midway between the shoreline and Mamalahoa Highway. The bypass starts at the southern edge of Keauhou and runs approximately three miles to the bottom of Haleki’i Street in Kealakekua’s Kona Scenic subdivision.

The Mamalahoa Highway Bypass first opened in 2009 under a temporary agreement with 1250 Oceanside Partners, the developer of Hokuli’a. Initially, the bypass was only open in one direction for limited hours. Even under those conditions, the alternate route provided alleviated traffic congestion and frustration. The agreement later allowed for two-way traffic for longer hours.

“We’re happy to announce that this much-needed bypass is now permanent,” said Mayor Billy Kenoi. “It is yet another important piece of infrastructure critical to improving the traffic situation for the people of West Hawai’i.”

1250 Oceanside Partners conveyed all of its right, title and interest from the Ali’i Drive entrance to the Haleki’i Street intersection to the County in December 2012. The 4,284 feet of Haleki’i Street from Mamalahoa Highway Bypass to Muli Street was conveyed to the County in November 2012.

In preparation for opening the bypass 24/7, the Department of Public Works completed improvements to the bypass, including paving the shoulders, installing guardrails, removing a speed hump, restoring the road at the Ali’i Drive entrance, removing stop signs and striping turn lanes at the Haleki’i Street intersection. Signs prohibiting bicycles, pedestrians, mopeds, vehicles over three tons and scooters were removed. The 45 mph posted speed limit on the bypass and the 25 mph limit on Haleki’i Street will remain.

A large portion of the South Kona community works in either North Kona or South Kohala and commutes daily along Mamalahoa Highway. The two-lane bypass gives motorists an alternate route between North and South Kona. Opening this bypass was one of Mayor Kenoi’s priorities upon taking office in December 2008. The Mayor was personally involved in talks with Mauka Kona residents to insure that the opening of this bypass helps meet the critical need for the transportation infrastructure in West Hawai‘i.

“The more we improve our island’s road infrastructure and mass transit system, the less time our working people will be spending in traffic, and the more time they will be spending at home with their families,” said Mayor Kenoi.

Future plans include extending the Mamalahoa Highway Bypass from the intersection with Haleki’i Street to the junction of Mamalahoa Highway and Napo’opo’o Road.

 

Abercrombie Releases Funds for Mamalahoa Highway, Pu’uwa’awa’a Gets the Drain

Governor Neil Abercrombie announced the release of $600,000 in Capital Improvement Project (CIP) funds for road improvements in the Pu’uwa’awa’a area of the Mamalahoa Highway on the Island of Hawai’i.

The project is slated to start in July 2012 with an estimated completion date of December 2014. The improvements will include the design of an underground drainage system to help rain runoff from flowing across the highway. The system will include drain lines, grated drop inlets and a drainage basin. Related improvements in the area include the design for a retaining wall and realigning the roadway as necessary to improve safety.

“Improving safety within this particular section of Mamalahoa Highway has been one of my top priorities and I’m happy to hear that we’ll be receiving the funds necessary to provide the highly needed improvements in highway infrastructure,” explained Representative Cindy Evans, who represents District 7 – North Kona, South Kohala.

“The improvement in the drainage system to help prevent rain runoff is part of a series of improvements that have been made in this section of the highway,” added Rep. Evans, who serves as the House Majority Floor Leader. “The State Department of Transportation has added guard rails and lowered the speed limit; these new improvements will only help contribute to making this area of the highway safer.”