State officials signed off on their own request to build a baseyard on Saddle Road, issuing a finding of no significant impact following an environmental assessment for the project.
The Department of Health’s Office of Environmental Quality Control published the final document late last week.
“Since significant public monies are being spent to upgrade the Saddle Road, the proposed action to build a conveniently located baseyard to perform preventive maintenance would maximize public funds and can keep Saddle Road in satisfactory operating condition for a longer period of time,” Department of Transportation officials said in the environmental assessment.
DOT officials said they did not receive any comments on the proposal, which would build a highways maintenance baseyard on 4 acres of vacant land within a 20.5-acre area set aside for the Mauna Kea State Recreation Area. The baseyard site was once the space used as a nene breeding facility. The state owns roughly 6,900 acres surrounding the proposed baseyard location.
The project would cost about $5.8 million.
Saddle Road is about 47 miles long, providing the most direct route from the east side of the island to the west side, and with an ongoing construction project due to wrap up before the end of this year, the road’s western end will be about seven miles closer to Kailua-Kona than the current intersection. DOT officials said they need the baseyard to have a more convenient location from which to leave to perform highway maintenance on the busy road.
Work on the baseyard is scheduled to begin in fall 2014 and is scheduled to be completed in August 2015.
Site improvements include constructing a shop building with work areas, an office and a parking area, a fuel area, a flammable storage area, open material storage and utilities. An existing, unpaved road will provide access to the baseyard, which will be enclosed with a perimeter fence.
Built by the military to access Pohakuloa Training Area during World War II, Saddle Road was not designed to state highway standards. About 20 years ago, when the planning stage for the road’s improvements began, the entire road was a narrow, winding, two-lane road with steep grades, sharp curves, poor pavement conditions, substandard drainage and high accident rates, DOT officials said in the environmental assessment.
Despite those problems, the road became “increasingly important” for access to the military base, Mauna Kea and for cross-island traffic.