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CIP budget includes more than $140M for Big Island projects

Funding for two major Hawaii Island road projects is among more than $4.9 billion in capital improvement projects funds approved Wednesday by the state House Committee on Finance.

The measure, House Bill 2725, includes $90 million to extend Daniel K. Inouye Highway from its current terminus at Mamalahoa Highway approximately 10.5 miles makai to Queen Kaahumanu Highway.

Approximately $85 million would be funded via revenue bond with the remaining $5 million derived from the special fund to finish environmental work, acquire land and construct the long-needed road, also referred to as the Saddle Road extension.

The extension is still working its way through the Section 106 consultation with State Historic Preservation Division, which must be completed before the Federal Highway Administration can sign off on the draft EIS allowing the project to move forward, according to the most recent update posted Feb. 1 by the administration.

House Bill 2725, which covers fiscal years 2020 and 2021 and includes all means of financing, now heads to the full House for a second reading. If passed, it heads to the Senate for its consideration.

As currently written, the measure includes $30 million for widening the heavily used Keaau-Pahoa Road, also known as Highway 130, from Hawaiian Paradise Park to Ainaloa in Puna. The road is the main artery of Puna, and recently, a fatality involving a pedestrian closed the highway for about three hours — causing extreme traffic backup in the region.

Also for the Puna District, the budget includes $1 million for the plans and designs for a replacement and relocation of the Pohoiki Boat Ramp, which was destroyed by the 2018 Kilauea eruption.

To construct an Agricultural Inspection Station and other related improvements at Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole, the bill includes $9 million.

Hawaii’s hospitals were not left out of the loop; the bill includes $6 million for expansion and improvement of Hilo Medical Center’s oncology clinic. Another $1 million is designated for construction and emergency room renovations at Kona Community Hospital.

In addition, $2 million was included for the acquisition of Kealakekua Piko by the Department of Land and Natural Resources. The 1,000-acre tract will be protected and important native forest resources will be restored in a “working forest” landscape. The funding is needed for the state to match a grant to acquire the property.

“The property is the center parcel in the Kealakekua Ranch and is surrounded by DLNR conservation easement projects that are managing, restoring and supporting native forest recovery and opportunities for production (e.g., for koa and iliahi),” the DLNR’s supplemental budget request reads. “The property will provide significant forest products that add to the local economy, provide important watershed for the Kealakekua Bay, and will provide opportunities for development of forest product revenue to support forest reserve management (from carbon sequestration and forest production).”

The bill also includes $1 million each for reservoir decommission in Hawaii County and improvements to the Waimea Irrigation System.

Other highlights of the capital improvement projects budget bill include:

• $25 million for rockfall protection/slope stabilization statewide

• $2 million for the incremental addition, replacement, and upgrade of the State Civil Defense warning and communication devices

• $10 million for various ADA projects at Department of Education facilities statewide

• $20 million for Department of Hawaiian Home Lands lot development and $5 million for repair and maintenance to existing infrastructure statewide.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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