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Crews back to work on Kalanianaole Ave., but frustration lingers

Crews responsible for the much-maligned Kalanianaole Avenue improvement project are back on the job.

Hawaii County Public Works Director Ikaika Rodenhurst told the Tribune-Herald that the contractor, Goodfellow Bros. has been back on site since July 12 and is working on drainage for the project.

Meanwhile, the department is wrapping up negotiations for concrete paving.

According to Rodenhurst, the project’s original bid included asphalt paving for Kalanianaole Avenue, but it was determined that some utility lines were more shallow than anticipated.

After working with the utility companies, Rodenhurst said it became clear that it would not be feasible to relocate the lines.

Because of that, and the high probability of damaging the utility lines with the compaction of asphalt pavement, concrete paving was determined to be an “effective alternative,” he said.

The project’s current price tag is about $18.3 million, but the concrete paving will be an additional cost.

Rodenhurst could not comment on what the extra cost might be because of the ongoing negotiations, but said Hawaiian Electric will share some of the expense.

The Tribune-Herald reported in June that little work had been done on the project in the six months prior, despite the county ordering the contractor to resume work in May.

Rodenhurst said that since stepping into his role in December, he has worked to improve communication with the contractor.

“It appears there was some miscommunication in the past,” he said. Although it’s a “work in progress, I think we’re in a better place for communication with the contractor than when I first came on board.”

But communication — or lack thereof — has frustrated Keaukaha residents throughout the project.

“If it’s a change order or more money or whatever it’s going to be, I don’t want to infringe on somebody’s proprietary contract information. We just happen to be the community stuck in the middle,” said Pat Kahawaiolaa, president of the Keaukaha Community Association. “We would appreciate clear communications. If you can’t get it done, let us know. If there’s a problem there, let us know.”

Kahawaiolaa also said he hasn’t received a satisfactory response regarding the work delays.

He said the administration claimed it would hire “the best and brightest.”

“We’re having a little bit of a problem with the ‘best and the brightest’ being able to communicate their objectives to the community,” he said.

Rodenhurst said the county is committed to getting the project completed as soon as possible.

“The contractor is on board with that goal, as well.”

Work currently is on schedule to be finished by February 2022, but Rodenhurst said the county is hoping to accelerate that timeline.

“The road’s got to get fixed — that’s the bottom line,” Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy said earlier this month, prior to receiving word that crews were back on the job.

“A few weeks back, (we) had a tsunami scare, and it became evident that Kalanianaole is (under) construction, Kilauea (Avenue) is under construction, and at this point, it’s alarming that these things aren’t getting done on time and on-budget,” she said.

Rodenhurst said he understands that people are concerned about potential emergency situations, but added that the current status of the road project does not impact the county’s evacuation preparedness.

After getting word that crews were back on the job site, Lee Loy — who earlier this summer sent a letter to the Tribune-Herald urging the county to finish the project after years of work — said she hopes the improvements will be completed.

“The community has waited long enough.”

“Our administration is intent on ensuring that the Kalanianaole Avenue project is completed with the utmost quality and respect for the residents of Keaukaha and all of those in our community who use the roadway regularly,” said Cyrus Johnasen, a spokesman for Mayor Mitch Roth. “We understand that the community is frustrated, and we appreciate their patience as we continue to work through issues to ensure that every aspect of the job is done right, so that it is a road that we can all be proud of.

“Keaukaha has seen too many temporary road fixes over the years, and it is our administrations’s view that the community deserves better than just a ‘Band-Aid’ this time around — they deserve it.”

The project covers about one mile of Kalanianaole Avenue, and entails a widening of the road, installation of an additional sidewalk and paved shoulder, a turn lane, bicycle lanes, a water line and improved drainage.

Including planning and
funding phases, the project has spanned three county administrations.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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