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UPDATE: Good news for Kona drivers


Kahu Brian Boshard gives the blessing before Keanalehu Drive is opened Thursday, April 23. With him are (from left) DHHL chairman Micah Kane, Bo Kahui, Gov. Linda Lingle, ELizabeth Lee, Mayor Billy Kenoi and Sen. Kalani English.

Kahu Brian Boshard gives the blessing before Keanalehu Drive is opened Thursday, April 23. With him are (from left) DHHL chairman Micah Kane, Bo Kahui, Gov. Linda Lingle, ELizabeth Lee, Mayor Billy Kenoi and Sen. Kalani English.

Story and photos by Karin Stanton/ Contributing Editor

Keanalehu Drive is now officially open. Drivers heading between upper Palani Road and Kealakehe High School or Lai Opua will be happy to see their travel time hugely decreased. 

The northern end of Keanalehu Drive.

The northern end of Keanalehu Drive.

The project completes a new mauka-makai corridor that will help reduce traffic on Palani Road and provide future access and utilities to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands’ Villages 4, 2 and 1, a preschool being planned by Kamehameha Schools, and a new community center and park planned by Lai Opua 2020.

The county began construction of the nearly $14 million road in 2007. The county kicked in $10.4 million to build 2,175 feet, while DHHL contributed just under $3.5 million to complete its 1,625-foot section.

Gov. Linda Lingle said she is always pleased to see collaborations between governments and agencies pay off for residents, especially on the neighbor islands.

Mayor Billy Kenoi said the road represents the health and vibrancy of the West Hawaii community.

Also at the dedication ceremony was Sen. Kalani English, of Maui. English is chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.

“This is directly related to your quality of life,” he said, noting how at some times during the day it can take an hour to drive between the high school and Palani Road via Queen Kaahumanu Highway. 

“That one hour makes a big difference to families,” he said.

English said lawmakers are aware of infrastructure deficits on the neighbor islands.

“For many years Kona was kind of left off the radar,” he said. “We do realize you need to catch up on infrastructure.”

He pledged to continue working in the Senate to bring relief to the neighbor islands.

The road is on land is owned by the county and state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

With the dedication ceremony, the road is now open full-time to traffic in both directions. However, officials are urging caution as there are four schools in the area and many children are not used to through traffic at either end of the new road.

Also, parking has been restricted.


Keanalehu Drive is now open to traffic - just watch for keik in the school zones.

Keanalehu Drive is now open to traffic - just watch for keik in the school zones

The Governor’s Office released this statement following the road’s opening:

In a partnership between the state and county governments to improve traffic and access for West Hawaii residents, Governor Linda Lingle, Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi and Hawaiian Homes Commissioner Micah Kane dedicated the long-awaited Keanalehu Drive extension in Kealakehe.

The connector road will provide motorists a new mauka-makai access between Kealakehe and the Villages of Lai Opua with the area schools and dramatically reduce drive times.

The 3,800-foot road extension project provides a direct route for motorists between Kealakehe and the Villages of Lai Opua with the various schools located in the area. This connection gives the residents of both subdivisions a better route to the schools, rather than traveling in a roundabout manner by using Queen Kaahumanu Highway and Palani Road.

“While we are dedicating a road, this is really about the county and state working together for the benefit of our communities,” Lingle said. “The public expects us to do what’s best for all regardless of whether it is a county road or a state road. I am very happy about this project because it will make life better for so many families.”

“This is a road we all knew needed to be built,” Kenoi said. “It just shows that the state and the county can step up, work together, and make things happen for the betterment of our community.”

Micah Kane, director of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, said the road was the top road priority of the Kealakehe/Lai Opua Regional Plan and Hawaii County’s plans.

“This just shows that when the community comes together on the same page and you have the support of all of the stakeholders, positive results will happen,” he said. “Our regional plans work to improve the whole region because that will make life better for our homestead communities.”

With the completion of the Keanalehu Drive extension, Kane said the next priority road project is the Ane Keohokalole Highway Extension to Henry Street, otherwise known as the Mid-Level Road.

Lingle said the regional plan is effective because it is community-based and works from a consensus from all of the stakeholders in the region.

“DHHL did a great job of facilitating the regional plan process and getting us to this point where we can move forward on the next road priority on the list – the Mid-Level Road,” she said. “This project will help stimulate the economy through job creation in the construction industry and I want to thank the Senate leadership for including it in their version of the budget. I am hopeful the House will also support this important project.”

The Administration has proposed $15 million in state funds for the Mid-Level Road.  The appropriation is currently included in the Senate version of the budget bill and would need to be negotiated with the House in conference committee. The Mid-Level Road is also scheduled to receive $35 million in federal stimulus funds. The county has already appropriated $4.0 million for the road.

“We are ready to work on the Mid-Level Road,” Kenoi said. “That road will not only help with traffic flow, but open the area to affordable housing and community priorities such as a community center and employment opportunities.”



Thursday, April 23, 12:23 a.m.

Sometime this afternoon, things will get WAY easier if you want to go from Honokohau Harbor to the upper part of Palani Road. Keanalehu Drive, which connects Kealakehe and Lai Opua subdivisions, opens for traffic. And we know this because the governor said so.

The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands is finally, finally, finally opening that teeny piece of asphalt between Kealakehe High School and Lai Opua neighborhood, and the road that runs past three other schools out on to Palani Road. has information that this stretch of road will be open 24 hours a days, to traffic in both directions, and you can even drive a scooter if you want.

The county and DHHL apparently have agreed on terms. 

So, go ahead, drive away!

Of course, there are a couple of cautions:

* The road begins and ends in school zones. Drive as if your own child played in these streets. 

* Parking has been restricted. Pay attention to new signs. 

Otherwise, go ahead. Drive the new ‘short cut.’

One Response to “UPDATE: Good news for Kona drivers”

  1. Jerri Waterman says:

    Thank you Karin for keeping up with this story! Only one typo (Governor say so)
    otherwise YIPEE!


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