State and federal officials are set to meet again with Native Hawaiians to talk about the Queen Kaahumanu Highway widening project.
The project, on which work was set to begin several years ago, will expand the highway from two to four lanes from Kealakehe Parkway to Kona International Airport. Fred Cachola, one of the Native Hawaiians who has been involved in the federal Section 106 consultation process, said state Department of Transportation officials, as well as Federal Highway Administration officials, have been part of the consultation process.
Cachola said he didn’t know what would be a good outcome of the meeting, set for Thursday.
“We’re only serving in an advisory capacity,” Cachola said. “We don’t have enforcement authority. We’ve offered alternatives to the highway department. We’re disappointed some of the alternatives we’ve offered have not been accepted.”
A federal highway spokesman told West Hawaii Today last week he was not aware of any deadlines — internal or otherwise — the administration had missed. He said the consultation process was ongoing.
State DOT officials did not respond Tuesday to a request for an update.
Cachola on Tuesday reiterated comments he made earlier this year about the need for a study of the cumulative impacts of land development in West Hawaii. Projects are being approved without consideration of the broader impact the development would have on the island, he said, adding that an “island mentality” is needed in Hawaii, while most planners and developers are using a “continental mentality.”
In May, Cachola told West Hawaii Today a lawsuit regarding the consultation process and highway widening project had not been ruled out as an option.
The state has been trying to begin the project, which is the second phase of widening following earlier expansion of the road from Henry Street to Kealakehe Parkway. In 2008, it first awarded Goodfellow Bros. Inc. the project. Two companies protested consecutive bid awards, with Goodfellow Bros. eventually remaining the contractor for the $76 million project. In spring of 2011, DOT officials reported inadvertent archaeological finds of some kind near the project’s southern end, near Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park. A Native Hawaii hui approached the DOT with concerns about those finds, officials told West Hawaii Today last fall. The construction start date was pushed back from May 2011 to mid-November, then to April of this year, then August or September.
Ed Brown, Goodfellow Brothers’ region manager, said Tuesday his company is still awaiting the state’s go-ahead to begin construction. The delay leaves 80 to 100 construction workers “on the bench,” Brown said.
“Hopefully, we’re going to start soon,” Brown said, adding he had not been updated on the consultation process status. “It would be great for everyone. It would be great for the island.”