A hefty $12 million in capital improvement funding to construct a frontage road and upgrade a seawater pipeline could reach the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority as early as summer 2013.
NELHA Executive Director Greg Barbour said the $9.69 million in general obligation bonds requested to construct the nearly 1-mile road will not only provide access to the park, but also serve as an economic driver opening lots for new tenants and expansion of the research park. The road would slice through the park’s upper 80 acres, which have been zoned and set aside for for offices and commercial/retail complex.
“It’s a huge thing that’s shovel-ready,” he said. “If we do get the money, we hope by next summer to put it to bid.”
Barbour said the frontage road, which runs parallel to Queen Kaahumanu Highway, could be complete within a year of starting construction.
Constructing the segment is required because when Queen Kaahumanu Highway is widened, the number of intersections with the highway will be limited. In all, the frontage road will stretch from Honokohau Small Boat Harbor to Kona International Airport providing ingress/egress to various sites.
The state Department of Transportation on Tuesday said no specific date has been set for work to commence on the next phase of the highway widening. Barbour said he hopes to get the road completed by the time DOT completes its work.
The funding request was contained in Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s two-year budget. In all, the governor requested $12.4 billion in general funds for 2013-15 and about $2.6 billion in capital improvement project funding.
The budget next goes to the state Legislature for consideration and passage. It is then transferred back to the governor who decides whether to release or veto the funding.
Also in the budget is a request by NELHA for $2.3 million in general obligation bond funding for upgrades to the area’s main pipeline system.
According to the request, the funding would allow for an upgrade allowing warm seawater to be shared between the two main subsystems. The upgrade would install a 28-inch pipe to provide redundancy between the two main subsystems in the event of a failure at either end; allow more seawater to be pumped to higher elevations; and allow the development of a 1-megawatt ocean thermal energy conversion facility.
The project has already been planned and is considered ready for construction, according to the request. The OTEC facility remains in the final engineering and negotiation stages, Barbour said.
NELHA, located at Keahole Point, is home to 41 tenants — 29 precommercial research and commercial businesses, four Gateway Center companies, and eight research, educational and community endeavours, according to a May 2012 audit of the facility by state Auditor Marion Higa.
An recently completed analysis by the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization showed that the park’s economic impact on the state of Hawaii alone was $87.7 million in 2010.