County Public Works crews expedited a Kuakini Highway-Kaiwi Street intersection repaving project this month, partially at the request of Ironman World Championship officials, Public Works Director Warren Lee said.
“We had a list of roads to fix up, mostly in the (Kailua) Village area,” Lee said Tuesday. “This was one on the list.”
County crews repaved a portion of Kuakini Highway in July, as well as Likana Lane, Lee said.
Ironman officials “were asking about” the intersection improvements, so Lee decided to see if he could get a crew available to do the work.
They did some prep work last week, Lee said, and spent much of Tuesday tearing up and repaving the intersection, diverting cars and bicycles into the Old Industrial Area, or instructing motorists to turn around and head back toward Kekuaokalani Gym and the Kona Community Aquatic Center.
“I told them to be done by Thursday,” Lee said. “Most of it’s going to be done today.”
Mayor Billy Kenoi acknowledged that the county will pick up infrastructure improvement projects that benefit the island’s two signature events, Ironman and the Merrie Monarch Festival.
Hawaii County spent $3.4 million to upgrade Edith Kanakaole Multipurpose Stadium in Hilo prior to this year’s Merrie Monarch hula competition.
“We don’t believe Ironman is getting special attention,” Kenoi said. “The county of Hawaii does have a responsibility to be done on time. Certainly we want to put our best foot forward.”
Events such as Ironman and Merrie Monarch have a “multiplier effect” on the economy, bringing in visitors who stay in hotels, eat at restaurants and shop at stores within the county, Kenoi added.
“Certainly in Kona, with the thousands of visitors that come, if there’s a way we can address projects, infrastructures or upgrades that benefit both residents and visitors, we’ll certainly do it.”
Several dips in the Kuakini-Kaiwi intersection pose hazards to athletes returning to the transition area after completing the 112-mile bicycle ride; police officers stationed at the intersection, as well as bystanders, will often warn cyclists of the bumps.
But county residents who drive through the busy intersection also will reap the benefit of the improvement, Kenoi said.
Ironman also contributes to county charities and partners with the county, Kenoi said.
County Parks and Recreation officials decided to give Ironman a discount on using a county facility on Alii Drive, after Ironman donated nearly $70,000 in repairs there. Parks and Recreation spokesman Jason Armstrong said Ironman installed permanent electrical system upgrades to Hale Halawai, which is the site of the Ironman Village Expo.
Officials decided “it would be inappropriate to charge the after-hours electrical fee,” Armstrong said.
The department is charging all of the other usual fees for using the hall and grounds, he said.
Kailua-Kona residents told West Hawaii Today on Tuesday they saw spotlights turned on at Hale Halawai well into the night.
Armstrong said “even at our electrical rate” it would take a long time for Ironman to make up the difference between what they owed for those after-hours charges and the nearly $70,000 in improvements.