Sen. Josh Green says the Department of Transportation will start working on the Queen Kaahumanu Highway widening project in June, unless Native Hawaiians who previously objected to the expansion path file a lawsuit.
Green, at a talk story session at Island Lava Java on Alii Drive Tuesday afternoon, said he spoke with DOT Director Glenn Okimoto, who said the department could be making an announcement about the long-delayed project in the next four to six weeks.
“If a lawsuit gets filed, the road money goes to a different area of the state,” Green added. “It really is quite black and white. We would lose Queen K Phase 2.”
A Federal Highways Department spokesman told West Hawaii Today Tuesday morning the federal government’s share of road funding wasn’t jeopardized by the lengthy consultation and mediation process between the state DOT and Native Hawaiians who objected to the project in 2011.
The state has been trying to get started on the $80 million widening project, from Kealakehe Parkway to Kona International Airport, since 2008, when it first awarded a bid. Several bid protests by unsuccessful contractors were followed by concerns about burials and other archaeological sites discovered on the highway expansion route. The DOT awarded the project to Goodfellow Bros.
West Hawaii Today attempted, multiple times, to get information from the DOT about who was involved in the consultation process. One participant, Fred Cachola, hung up on a reporter the last time he was contacted about his concerns. He previously requested that the state conduct an in-depth review of the impact of all development in Hawaii on Hawaiians.
Green, responding to a question from a constituent, said he would support legislation that would impose a statute of limitations to bring such concerns and legal actions against projects. Open-ended periods for objection made more sense in the past, when getting information about projects was harder, Green said.
“These days, you have ample opportunity,” he said, adding a statute of limitations “is totally reasonable.”
Another concern in Hawaii, Green said, is respecting Hawaiian culture and practice.
That’s good, he said, “but there has to be a rational process.”
He said he would also consider legislation to make public who is objecting to projects. In this case, he added, the DOT and the parties involved in the federally mandated consultation projects “appeared to have worked out their differences.”
The DOT did implement some design changes to avoid archaeological sites, Green said.
“I want that road finished once and for all,” he said. “From my perspective, people want the road.”
Green touched on a number of other issues, from legislation relating to health issues to the lengthy waits to renew driver’s licenses.
“They way overshot” with the new regulations, Green said. “They have the prerogative to relax the rules.”
Green said he’s asking the state to do just that.