Queen Kaahumanu Highway widening clears state hurdle

The State Historic Preservation Division has given the state transportation department a green light to break ground on the Queen Kaahumanu Highway widening project.

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The State Historic Preservation Division has given the state transportation department a green light to break ground on the Queen Kaahumanu Highway widening project.

Construction can now proceed following acceptance this week by SHPD of a report detailing the archaeological data that has been recovered from the impacted area and the protection measures that will shield historic properties from the construction process, according to documents obtained from a private source.

The Hawaii Department of Transportation expects to give the contractor Goodfellow Bros. Inc. a notice to proceed next month or in September.

No human burials or skeletal remains were discovered during the field work, according to a July 19 letter from SHPD administrator Alan Downer to DOT director Ford Fuchigami.

An archaeological inventory survey in 2012 located 76 historic properties in the path of the project to widen the highway to four lanes between Kealakehe Parkway and Kona International Airport. Engineers realigned the expansion to avoid 23 of those sites.

Cultural Surveys Hawaii Inc. completed field data recovery, and Goodfellow Bros. finished fencing historic sites in mid-June. The website BuildQueenK.com now has a 24-hour hotline where residents can get information on the project. However, West Hawaii Today is not publishing the number, as two calls for information on Wednesday were taken by a dispatcher but not returned at deadline by the representative who was supposed to handle them.

A public meeting will be held in mid-August, according to the website. Construction is expected to last two years.

The $100 million project to widen 5.2 miles of the highway and add signals, drainage, lighting and other features was awarded six years ago. Cultural and archaeological concerns delayed construction.

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Construction will start with four months of grading and utility work, followed by pavement on the makai side of the highway from Hina Lani Street to the airport. Trucks will be entering and leaving the roadway, but otherwise, traffic patterns and turning movements are not expected to be affected. Similar work south of Hina Lani is slated to take another five months.

The mandates of the project include pedestrian and bicycle access during all phases of construction. An “IRONMAN Corridor” will be created on the highway three weeks before the race and will be kept open for triathlon training and other cycling.

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