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Stene: Disappointed in road projects’ progress

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By Aaron Stene | Special to Hawaii 24/7

I’m very disappointed with how Gov. Neil 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.

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 Sept. 25, 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.

The last east side Saddle Road phase (between mile markers 5.3 and 11) is the other project botched by 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.

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.

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