HILO — After discussing whether a Hawaiian name would be more appropriate and if the public would ever break its habit of calling it anything but “Saddle Road,” the County Council on Wednesday unanimously passed a resolution in support of renaming the island’s east-west connector “Daniel K. Inouye Memorial Highway.”
The county’s nonbinding resolution supports concurrent resolutions passed in the state House and Senate asking the state Department of Transportation to rename the road after the longtime U.S. senator, who died Dec. 17. It was sponsored by Hilo Councilman Dennis Onishi.
The name of the road is ultimately under the control of the DOT.
South Kona/Ka‘u Councilwoman Brenda Ford voted kanalua, meaning with reservations, noting county ordinances requires street names to be in Hawaiian. The state doesn’t have to follow the local law, but Ford said she wanted to err on the side of being pono, or doing the right thing.
“I have received several emails from Hawaiians who say it’s not appropriate,” Ford said.
Kona Councilman Dru Kanuha, a Native Hawaiian, praised Inouye’s work bringing the two sides of the island together by getting money for the road.
“As a Hawaiian, I think it’s completely appropriate to name this road after Sen. Daniel K. Inouye,” Kanuha said, adding “We do feel disrespected when we hear Ane K. Highway.’ It’s Ane Keohokalole.’”
Council members also questioned whether a more shortened version would be appropriate, while still honoring the senator.
Kaumana resident Kerri Marks, who lives just off Saddle Road, questioned the expense of changing signs and asked whether the new name will even fit on a street sign.
“We all call it ‘Saddle Road,’ and we’re going to continue to call it ‘Saddle Road,’” Marks said. “Most of the people who live here will call it ‘Saddle Road’ forever.”
Inouye had championed the Saddle Road project, noting the need to improve access to Pohakuloa Training Area for all military branches, as well as the cross-island highway for island residents. In 2009, at a dedication for a completed phase of the road realignment project, Inouye vowed to remain in Congress until the road was finished. Work on the third phase of realignment, from about mile marker 42 to Mamalahoa Highway, began in 2011. A fourth phase, from Mamalahoa Highway to Waikoloa Beach Drive, is in the early planning stages.
The first three phases of construction have cost about $120 million, with funding mostly coming from military and federal transportation coffers.
The fourth phase is estimated to cost $45 million to $50 million, and no money has yet been appropriated.
Hawaii’s two U.S. senators have indicated they’ll try to get funding, but they could make no guarantees.
Inouye, as one of the longest-serving senators and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, had an easier time bringing money home to the island, compared to the state’s now fledgling legislative delegation in Washington, D.C.