The Hawaii Department of Transportation decided to defer most roadway capacity projects in 2016. This is why there won’t be a lot of new roads constructed statewide going forward. I didn’t agree with this arbitrary decision, as I believe there is a way to continue the much-needed capacity program, along with maintaining the existing inventory of state roads and highways.
It’s been argued that HDOT has enough existing funds in place to do both, especially since there is $505 million in unspent federal highway funds at their disposal. These funds are already committed to existing roadway projects though, which require state matching funds (20 percent of the project’s costs). That 20 percent figure adds up when you have multiple projects that are ongoing or in the process of starting. As a result, the preservation of the state of Hawaii’s existing roadway inventory has suffered over the years.
I firmly believe the powers that be have to stop arguing over semantics, and discuss out-of-the-box solutions to this issue, such as streamlining the delivery of new highway projects, and finding additional funding sources. HDOT also needs to do a better job selling the need for additional funding at the Legislature and to the public at large. The general public, and by extension the Legislature, is frustrated by poor roadway conditions and traffic congestion, but they don’t want to expend the additional funds because HDOT hasn’t adequately justified it in my opinion.
I, for one, would be willing to pay more to register my vehicle, and fill my gas tank, if it allows the HDOT to restore their roadway capacity program, improve roadway safety and system preservation. These issues ultimately impact the quality of life of the general public, and economic growth. Hawaii needs a robust roadway system to remain economically competitive. This won’t happen if the HDOT continues to focus solely on system preservation and safety improvements.
Aaron Stene is a resident of Kailua-Kona.