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Legislators talk CIP projects

East Hawaii will get its share of state capital improvement funds if the $5.1 billion capital improvement budget approved last week by lawmakers is signed by Gov. David Ige.

It was reported previously that $6 million in CIP funds have been allocated for a new custom turf field and synthetic track at Hilo High School, $1.5 million has been set aside for the Pohoiki boat ramp in lower Puna and $10 million for Hilo Medical Center’s Cardiac Center and the Hawaii Pacific Oncology Center.

Other East Hawaii projects funded in the bill for the 2020-21 fiscal year include, among others:

• Nearly $49 million for improvements to Hilo Harbor.

• $30 million to widen Keaau-Pahoa Road, or Highway 130, from two lanes to four lanes.

• $23 million for terminal and other improvements at Hilo International Airport.

• $8 million for the plans, design, construction and equipment for improvements at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

• $6 million for the design for the rehabilitation and replacement of the Kolekole Stream bridge.

• $1 million for the construction of a new regional library in Puna.

• $750,000 to replace playground equipment at Waiakea Elementary, among numerous other projects at East Hawaii schools.

State Rep. Joy San Buenaventura said the Highway 130 funding is in addition to money already set aside for a roundabout at Ainaloa Boulevard, and is for the stretch of highway from Keaau to Pahoa.

“It’s not that much money to do four lanes all the way through …,” said San Buenaventura. But the hope is the money will be matched with federal funds.

“We did go out of our way to prioritize projects that were deemed ‘shovel-ready,’” said state Rep. Chris Todd of Hilo, a member of the House Finance Committee. “The intent (was) to go after projects that can go out for bid as soon as possible and stimulate some economic growth and keep people employed.”

The state faces a $1 billion budget shortfall as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which shuttered businesses throughout the islands and essentially shut down the tourism industry.

“Due to the current financial outlook, the projects we are funding this year are either generated by fees, money that is there for this purpose or they’re bonded,” Todd said. “Most are not going to be taking money from government services.”

Todd said there’s been a lot of communication between the Legislature and Ige’s administration.

“I think we’re pretty confident he’ll sign off,” he said, adding, however, that the governor’s administration has a lot of freedom in terms of prioritizing projects.

San Buenaventura said, too, that she thinks Ige will sign off on the budget.

“… That way, the money will flow and jobs will be created, and hopefully by priming the pump, money will flow and (Hawaii) won’t go into a deeper recession or depression,” she said.

Email Stephanie Salmons at
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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