KEALAKEHE, Hawaii – A delay in the Queen Kaahumanu Highway phase two widening project was explained in an October 13 West Hawaii Forum held in Kona.
Ed Sniffen, the Deputy Director for the State Department of Transportation Highways Division acknowledged during the community talk story that the finding of archaeological sites in the area has stalled the project.
“We started on time and we were rolling in the beginning,” Sniffen said of the $100 million capacity project. “I’m sure you’ve all noticed… the speed at which they’re moving the project slowed down quite a bit recently. There’s a couple reasons for it.”
Sniffen said DOT found archaeological sites near the project on the south side, forcing the department to redesign the project in order “to shorten up our impacts on the makai side of the project.”
“In order to ensure that we didn’t impact the archaeological sites on the makai side,” Sniffen said, “we’re building retaining walls in that area. That required a redesign of the project from the south end.”
“The redesigns went through our highways offices in the early February timeframes,” Sniffen said. “We’ve been working out the technical details and the cost of the contractor, and we should be kicking it out by the end of this month.”
The project also “hit two archaeological sites,” Sniffen said. “I think it was the Mamalahoa Trail and the Road To The Sea Trail,” he added.
“These are two worn, rock-paved paths that were near the construction site. Both of them were impacted about 20 to 25 feet or so,” he said. “We got to go through consultation with the signatories of the MOA for 106 process: SHPD, Federal Highways, all the people who we consult with, we gotta go back through the processes with them to understand what the impacts are for us.”
“At this time we’re showing up minor impacts, or minimal impact, to the trails,” Sniffen reported, “but we gotta get that consultation done before we formalize any any kind of impact or analysis on that side.”
Sniffen said the department is working on “setting up a process during construction so that this never happens again.”
DOT has made adjustments to have “more buffer” within the archaeological sites, and will “go through construction contractor schedules daily if they’re anywhere near sites to make sure this never happens again.”
“Those things kind of slowed us down,” Sniffen admitted, adding that DOT is still “looking at what we can do to get us back on schedule for that November 2018 completion.”
The West Hawaii Today reported on the delays in a November 21 article, noting that DOT officials would provide no details beyond the revised timeline and the fact that there were “some impacts to archaeological sites.” The paper also reported the original completion date was estimated to be September 2017.