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.

Latest Phase of Saddle Road to Open This Weekend

The latest phase of the Saddle Road realignment project will be open to vehicular traffic from Saturday, September 7, following a dedication ceremony at 3 p.m.

Photo courtesy of Aaron Stene

To promote safety for the motoring public, police will conduct education by way of “speed boards,” devices which provide a digital display of approaching vehicles’ speed. Additionally, officers will conduct speed enforcement as part of the two-prong approach aimed at seeking compliance with the posted speed limits.

Commentary – Aaron Stene on the Saddle Road Project

I’m very disappointed how Governor Abercrombie’s administration has managed the widening of Queen Kaahumanu Highway and last Hilo side phase
of Saddle Road. The Section 106 consultation process between the Native Hawaiian Organizations and FHWA/DOT has entered its twentieth month.

Saddle Road Dedication

The FHWA and DOT is keeping the public  in the dark regarding these consultations, so no one knows where things stand with this project. The
Queen Kaahumanu Highway website hasn’t been updated since September 25th, 2012.

The Queen Kaahumanu Highway widening should’ve been completed three years ago, but it is on hold due to various issues. There may be a light
at the end of tunnel though. The HDOT hopes to break ground on this project in August, according to the April Board of Water Supply meeting
minutes. However, the calendar isn’t a friend of this latest start date.  Several outstanding issues need to be resolved, such as the completion
of the ongoing Section 106 consultation process, before this project can move forward.

Saddle Road Blessing

Senator Inouye joined Mayor Billy Kenoi and others for a blessing of the recently refurbished section of Saddle Road between mile post 11 and mile post 19

The last east side Saddle Road phase (between m.m  5.3 and m.m 11) is the other project botched by Governor Abercrombie’s administration. The
HDOT asked the State Attorney General’s office  to begin condemnation proceedings against the three remaining landowners in 2012, whose land
is required for this new highway.

The Land Transportation Division of the Attorney General’s office has yet to initiate any of these lawsuits, as of January 2013. The HDOT
recently submitted the last Saddle Road phase for a FY 2013 TIGER grant.  I’m deeply concerned this right of way issue may influence the chances of this phase being awarded a TIGER grant.

Saddle Road Stene

I’ve tried to convey my concerns to the Honolulu HDOT and FHWA powers that be. However, they’ve ignored nearly all my e-mails regarding these
two much-needed projects.

Aaron Stene,

Kailua, Kona

 

Hawaii House Votes to Rename Kilauea Point Lighthouse on Kauai and Saddle Road on the Big Island to Honor Late the Late Senator Daniel K. Inouye

The House today passed two concurrent resolutions to rename the Kilauea Point Lighthouse on Kauai the Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Point Lighthouse (HCR 41), and designate Hawaii Island’s Saddle Road as the Daniel K. Inouye Legacy Highway (HCR 42).

  • HCR 41 was introduced by Kauai Representatives Derek Kawakami (Hanalei, Princeville, Kilauea, Anahola, Kapaa, Wailua) and James Tokioka (Wailua Homesteads, Hanamaulu, Lihue, Puhi, Old Koloa Town, Omao) on behalf of the Kauai Caucus.
  • HCR 42 was introduced by Representatives Mark Nakashima (Hamakua, North Hilo, South Hilo) and Cindy Evans (North Kona, North Kohala, South Kohala) on behalf of the Hawaii Island Caucus.
Kilauea Point Lighthouse

Kilauea Point Lighthouse

In his remarks today, Representative Derek Kawakami said, “the Kilauea Point Lighthouse is similar to our beloved Senator. Both provided guidance and protection. Both served to protect the weak from the mighty. Both provide beacons of hope and comfort.”

Saddle Road

Saddle Road

In introducing the resolution to rename Saddle Road on Hawaii Island, Representative Mark Nakashima said, “United States Senator Daniel Inouye was a true statesman having devoted his life to service of his country in the battlefields of Europe and in the halls of Congress. With values born in Hawaii, the Senator’s actions were visionary and looked to invest in the future of Hawaii for generations to come.  The Saddle Road Project is one such investment that will bridge east and west Hawaii.”

The measures now advance to the Senate for their consideration

31-Year-Old Dies in Saddle Road Crash

A 31-year-old Hilo man died Tuesday (May 1) from injuries he sustained in a two-vehicle crash on Saddle Road, .3 miles west of the 19-mile-marker.


The man was identified as Calsey B. Santos, of a Hilo address.

Responding to a 5:23 a.m. call, South Hilo patrol officers determined that Santos was operating a 1994 Nissan four-door sedan and traveling west on Saddle Road when he crossed the centerline and sideswiped a 2005 UD Flatbed tow truck that was traveling east.

The driver of the tow truck, a 48-year-old Kailua-Kona man and his passenger, a 58-year-old Hilo man, were not injured.

Santos was taken to Hilo Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 8:07 a.m.

It is unknown at this time if speed, alcohol or drugs were involved.

Traffic Enforcement Unit officers have initiated a negligent homicide investigation and have ordered an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death.

This is the 12th traffic fatality on the Big Island this year compared with eight at this time last year.

County, State and Federal Officials Bless the Latest Section of Saddle Road Completed

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.

Saddle Road Blessing

Senator Inouye joined Mayor Billy Kenoi and others for a blessing of the recently refurbished section of Saddle Road between mile post 11 and mile post 19

“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.

Pohakuloa

Senator Inouye touring U.S. Army Garrison Pohakuloa with LtCol Chris Miles.

“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.

Saddle Road, Manono Street Work Set

Media Release:

Saddle Road resurfacing in South Kohala and re-striping of a stretch of Manono Street in Hilo are scheduled to get under way next week. Motorists are asked to plan and consider alternate routes to avoid delays.

The stretch of Saddle Road in South Kohala scheduled for resurfacing is between mile markers 44 and 48. The project begins Wednesday, March 10 and weather permitting, could take approximately 20 days excluding holidays and weekends.  Work is scheduled for weekdays between 6:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

In Hilo, Manono Street, between Kuawa and Hualani Streets will be restriped, and a new crosswalk designated at the intersection of Manono and Pi‘ilani.  Striping begins Monday, March 8, and could take approximately five days to complete, weather permitting. Roadwork is between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. At the same time, on-street parking will be removed fronting Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium.

Motorists are asked to drive with caution, and anticipate lane closures.

Saddle Road One of the Scariest Roads in the Nation

According to today’s Yahoo Travel section, Saddle Road on the Big Island is one of the scariest drives in America.

While it is a pretty bad road… I’ve driven on much worse that didn’t even make the list:

The Big Island’s incredible Saddle Road shoots between two hulking volcanoes across a sweltering lava-rock desert. “Famously bad and dangerous” is how one guide describes Hawaii Route 200 between Hilo and Waimea.  Although improved in recent years, much of the route is narrow and one-way; intermittent fog makes it even more hazardous. Side roads lead to the summits of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.

I wonder if this was before or after the recent Saddle Road Improvement projects?

Then again… when you see people flying over saddle road like this idiot… you can understand why it could be so scary!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mb7avf9ncGU&hl=en&fs=1]

Department of Public Works Blackballing of Bloggers Tied to TMT Project, Saddle Road and the Military?

I can’t do anything but copy and paste this whole article written by Andy Parx over at Got Windmills.

Although Hawai`i County officials claim the blackballing of journalist/bloggers on the Big Island was over before it began one of, if not the main target of the policy says that’s just more shibai.

“I was the one directly targeted by this directive” says Aaron Stene of the Kona Blog in a comment left on yesterday’s column on the subject.

“The troubling aspect of this debacle” he wrote “is the fact the directive seems to be still in effect. I have had a hard time talking to DPW and the county council ever since this directive was released.”

But according to a Big Island source the derivation of the ban may go back to a rather innocuous video posted by Dave Corrigan of the Big Island Video News last August and is apparently related to the controversy over the expansion of the new Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea.and Stene’s campaign in support of it in the face of local and kanaka maoli oppostion.

The video shows the repaving of the “Saddle Road” across the Big Island and is also controversial because opponents of the telescope say it is being done not for the pubic but to enable not just the expansion. of the observatory on what Hawaiians consider sacred land but extensive miliary operations in the area.

That video was followed by a post by Stene in Septembers and many more since arguing with opponents but giving them a platform at his popular blog to oppose the project and claim “a military connection to the science going on on Mauna Kea” and that. “the road is mostly used by contractors and not the general public” among other objections.

According to our source, author of the policy DPW spokeswoman Noelani Whittington was still concerned enough about the original video and apparently the discussion on Stene’s blog to still be bringing it up in conversations in December

Though the connection to the ban may or may not be true, Stene thinks it’s far from over.

In a post yesterday he wrote

“(I)t makes me wonder if Noelani and the DPW had a hidden agenda here…. (I)t seemed this directive was targeted mostly at me. I had by far interfaced with the DPW more often than Damon (Tucker) and David (Corrigan)”.

Those are the other two whose blogs were singled out by Whittington when she banned department personnel from interacting with blogger/journalists on the island.

He continued saying:

On a related note, she tried calling me yesterday and tried to kiss my ass by acting all apologetic for doing this. I tried to remain civil even though it was very hard to do so on my part. However I refused to accept her apology for her actions….

There is one more troubling aspect of this debacle. I’ve had a hard talking to DPW, county council ever since this directive was released. Thus it seems in my case I highly doubt this directive has been withdrawn.

But the saddle road may not be the only controversial project Whittington apparently didn’t want publicly debated. Stene concludes by saying

Lastly, it seems there is a lack of communication between the HDOT and DHHL to minimize the impact of the Waimea bypass, according to this WHT article. If there was better communication the concerns of the DHHL homesteaders would’ve been addressed years ago. Thus this much needed highway wouldn’t be delayed once again

As to Tucker his response to the article was a lot more defensive after Whittington’s slight of his and other reporter/bloggers’ professionalism, as was reported in the Hawai`i Tribune Herald article yesterday that broke the story by obtaining Whittington’s six page policy written policy.
.
In his Open Letter to Department of Public Works Spokeswoman Noelani Whittington, Tucker wrote

Ms. Whittington, thank you for insulting Aaron, Dave and Myself with your little knowledge of our backgrounds in today’s article written by Jason Armstrong in the Tribune Herald….

I guess you just assume some of us lack experience because we blog in a blogging format and not in the traditional news sense?

Here is just a little of my Experience… Sorry I got out of the field more then a decade ago and switched to Education:
1 Year Advertising Manager on Mainland1 Year Lay-Out Editor (Hilo)2 Years Reporting (Mainland/Hilo)1 Year Writing Press Releases for the State Legislature…

I myself have never asked DPW for any information. Any information that I have found on them… was already published. I don’t have some “Deep Throat” working for me at your office lady… get a grip!

I know you don’t know who I am… but had it not been for my father-in-law telling me that you are an OK person (and yes you do know him)… You would have ended up on my Smuck list.

Unlike Kaua`i the Big Island is awash with on-line reporting and general information blogs with no less than a dozen people with varying degrees of reporting experience from Kona to Hilo posting tons of information and opinion on everything from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Kaua`i on the other hand is, with a few notable exceptions, practically devoid of blogs with original news and political commentary and reporting which, when combined with a sycophantic local newspaper that rarely if ever rocks the boat, may explain why the county can get away with their unwritten rules of non-engagement and their tight-fisted hold on what is, by law, public information.