Lawmakers advance Saddle Road extension


The state budget approved by lawmakers provides $1 million toward extending Saddle Road to Queen Kaahumanu Highway.

The funding would go toward designing the extension, the last planned for the leeward side of the cross-island road.

Caroline Sluyter, state Department of Transportation spokeswoman, said that project is in the “very preliminary stages” and a timeline wasn’t immediately available.

Sluyter said costs could be similar to other phases of the road improvement project.

Another segment on the Hilo side is also planned.

At an estimated cost between $50 million and $55 million, DOT plans to straighten the road between mile markers 5.5 and 11.

The department is still seeking funding for that phase.

Last year, it sought $34 million through the federal TIGER grant fund.

DOT didn’t receive the funds but plans to try again this year, Sluyter said.

Straightening the road requires acquiring rights of way through 12 properties.

Eight had accepted offers from the state as of last year.

Another four were going through eminent domain. Sluyter said that process is continuing.

The Kaumana City Association has expressed concern about delays with improving that segment.

In a December letter to DOT Director Glenn Okimoto, association President Mary Uyeda noted improvements to Saddle Road have increased traffic while safety issues created by sharp curves on the Hilo side persist.

“Now that the traffic has increased between east and west destinations with more unfamiliar drivers and larger trucks, our local residents are faced with higher traffic flows and greater speeds!” she wrote.

To date, state and federal agencies have spent $290 million improving Saddle Road.

The newest extension to Mamalahoa Highway south of the Waikoloa Road junction was completed in September.

The road has been officially named the Daniel K. Inouye Highway, in memory of the U.S. senator who championed the road improvement project.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.