A new way forward


HILO — The long-awaited completion of the Mamalahoa Bypass Road moved closer to reality Friday with several actions by the Hawaii County Council.

The council accepted 31.6 acres of road and drainage rights of way from 1250 Oceanside Partners, developers of Hokulia. In other action, the council accepted on first reading $12.5 million in contributions to help pay for construction.

The county won $12.5 million in cash and $20 million in land as collateral for another $20 million owed by 1250 Oceanside’s bond insurer, American Motorist Insurance Co., in a lawsuit that was settled late last year. Mayor Billy Kenoi said the county will be able either to leverage the cash settlement for federal matching funds or issue a general obligation bond for the remainder of the construction costs for the estimated $32.5 million project.

“The money’s already sitting in the bank, we don’t need to go looking for it, it’s already done,” said South Kona Councilwoman Brenda Ford about the $12.5 million.

The county should be ready to begin construction in mid-2013, said Public Works Director Warren Lee. He said it’s likely to take 18 months to complete.

“We would like to build it as soon as possible,” Lee said.

Ford said the dedication to the county of about 8 acres on the makai end of the road will help the county continue work it’s already doing, improving an intersection at Halekii Street and Mamalahoa Bypass.

“It’s nice that we have it now; we’re actually improving the intersection,” Ford said. “It helps us get legal control to the area to continue what we need to do.”

The southern corridor of the bypass road will run from Kaleiopapa Street to Napoopoo Junction in South Kona, extending from the road Hokulia developers built several years ago. It will also include improvements on Halekii Street from its intersection with Mamalahoa Highway Bypass Road to Kona Scenic Park.

The road now runs from Alii Drive in Keauhou to Halekii Street in Kealakekua.

Hawaii County officials have planned for a Mamalahoa bypass in South Kona since the late-1970s. Years of litigation followed when the Coupe family, one of the landowners along the route. sued, saying the county’s condemnation action was illegal because it was done for the benefit of a private developer. Eventually, the county won the lawsuit after the U.S. Supreme Court denied to hear the case.

The council actions, while relatively routine, are the culmination of years of planning and litigation, Lee said.

“We’re putting the bow on the ribbon,” Lee said.