The long-awaited, stimulus funded Ane Keohokalole Highway opened Saturday delighting residents and visitors alike who now have another means of traversing north and south in Kona.
With the opening of the $30.5 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act-funded, 2.9-mile roadway, traffic on Queen Kaahumanu Highway, especially between Hina Lani Street and Palani Road, should ease, providing drivers a less hectic, hopefully quicker commute.
“People can now get through Kona using the midlevel road to skip much of the Kailua-Kona area,” said Warren Lee, director of the Hawaii County Department of Public Works. “It should provide some relief.”
Dozens of people, including residents, descendants of the woman for whom the road is named, county and state officials and representatives from each of four ahupuaa the road crosses, took part in a blessing for the new highway on Saturday at the road’s intersection with Kealakehe Parkway in North Kona. The road officially opened for general use at 3 p.m.
The road is named after Analea Keohokalole, the mother of Queen Lydia Liliuokalani, the Hawaiian Kingdom’s last reigning monarch, said Clarence Medeiros Jr., a direct descendant of the Keohokalole family.
Ane Keohokalole is a two-lane road running from Kealakehe Parkway to Hina Lani Street, with wide shoulders and room for additional expansion in the future. The road was anticipated to open in May, however, that was delayed until June because of additional features, including bioretention basins, said Lee. More than 200 people were employed as part of the project.
The project also includes two preservation projects. One along Palani Road where an interpretive center is being built and the other at Hina Lani Street where work is under way to preserve one of Hawaii’s last remaining dryland forests, Lee said.
According to the county, the road will facilitate development of the state’s Kamakana Villages affordable housing project, commercial development by the Queen Liliuokalani Trust to support children’s programs and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands’ Villages at Laiopua community center and expansion. A Hele-On bus route is planned for the road.
The speed limit has been set at 35 mph, though the road was constructed to handle 45 mph traffic, Lee said. He explained the lower speed limit is in effect because Ane Keohokalole Highway is a collector road rather than arterial road with little inter-connectivity.
At the highway’s intersection with Kealakehe Parkway the county has installed a four-way stop. Lee said the county was working to put in a traffic signal, which could cost more than $500,000.
“Eventually we want to signalize this intersection. It’s in the works, right now,” he said.
Work on the highway began in March 2010, according to the county. Nan Inc., a Honolulu-based company, won the contract. Because planning was kept in-house, the county said it saved approximately $3.24 million, which was used to construct 2.9 miles rather than just 1.9 miles as anticipated for the project’s first phase.
Hawaii County in 2009 received about $35 million in federal funds to build the road, initially just from Palani Road to Kealakehe Parkway. County officials had enough funds left over to begin grading from Kealakehe Parkway to Hina Lani Street, then enough to pave that segment. The funding also covered improvements on Palani Road leading to Ane Keohokalole Highway.
Mayor Billy Kenoi, during the dedication ceremony, thanked the various parties who helped ensure the highway met all deadlines in order for the county to expend the federal stimulus funds. He also noted the project is the largest ARRA-funded project in the state.
“We stand here today as one community and we can say ‘can,’ when they say ‘no more money, (too many) obstacles and barriers, and cultural and environmental issues — no can,’” Kenoi said about the challenges faced in completing the road within two years, including design and planning. “Today, all of this shows ‘can.’”
The next phase of Ane Keohokalole, which will take the road from Hina Lani Street to Kaiminani Drive, was estimated in February to cost $30 million to $50 million, Lee said. He said that phase is all part of the long-term vision to bring the highway to the new Hawaii Community College at Palamanui campus’ main collector road at Kaiminani Drive. From there, motorists will be able to reach Mamalahoa Highway.