HILO — As more money pumps into county road projects, thanks in part to a 161% increase in the fuel tax ate since 2017, the county is having trouble spending it fast enough.
The County Council will be asked next week to reappropriate $8.4 million in fuel tax money that’s due to lapse because it wasn’t spent on time. The money has accumulated in the accounts over the past 11 years, with $2 million of it not spent in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2018.
County administration attributes some of the unspent funds to last year’s lava disaster and Hurricane Lane, which pulled road crews off regular projects to handle emergencies.
A portion of the balance, which has accumulated since 1996, also comes from projects that have been closed out, leaving money in various accounts that now needs to be moved into more pressing projects, Deputy Finance Director Steve Hunt said Tuesday.
“There are various reasons they didn’t get spent,” Hunt said.
By “collapsing” those accounts and aggregating the money, it can be used for new projects, such as those using federal money in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, he said.
“We’re taking all the lapsed funds and reappropriating them to projects that are priorities,” Hunt said.
Money left on the table includes $1.3 million in local road projects, with the majority of the unspent money attributed to Puna. The Puna district accounted for $454,722 in unspent road money, compared to $365,394 for South Hilo Roads, $254,987 for North Hilo roads, $200,280 for North Kona roads, $60,241 for Hamakua roads and $7,629 for Ka‘u roads.
The current district apportionment formula for the Local Road Improvement category of the county fuel tax program distributes funds among the tax map districts according to each district’s percent of miles of local streets. The money must be spent in the assigned district.
“It’s really strict on where it can be spent,” said Department of Public Works Business Manager Sharilynn Olivar.
Other money set to be reallocated includes $5.3 million for roadway projects and $1.7 million for bridge inspections and repairs. That’s for the Opea Stream Bridge, Kaiwiilahilahi Gulch Bridge, Kaiwiki Bridge #1, all on Old Mamalahoa Highway, and the Honolii Stream Bridge on Kahoa Road.
The roadway projects include 22 specific resurfacing projects islandwide, under the category “FHWA Pavement Preservation Restoration Projects.”
The County Council in 2017 raised the county fuel tax from 8.8 cents per gallon to 23 cents over a three-year period. That adds another $6.1 million to the annual budget.
A one-half cent surcharge on the general excise tax has also been added in the past few years, with $50 million in annual proceeds dedicated to road and mass transit projects.
FHWA Pavement Preservation Restoration Projects
Henry Street: Kuakini Highway to Queen Kaahumanu Highway
Kilauea Avenue: Wailoa Bridge to Puainako Street
Kawili Street: Lanikaula Street to Kapiolani Street
Lanikaula Street: Manono Street to Ululani Street
Waianuenue Avenue: Kaiulani Street to Rainbow Drive
Mamalahoa Highway: Phase 1 of 3: Kiloa Road to Keopuka Heights Road
Palani Road/Alii Drive: Phase 1 of 2 — Kuakini Highway (Route 11) to Royal Poinciana Drive
Kamehameha Avenue: Ponahawai Street to Waianuenue Avenue
Kilauea Avenue: Ponahawai Street to Keawe Street
Keawe Street: Kilauea Avenue to Waianuenue Avenue
Kinoole Street: Phase 1 of 2 — Wailuku Drive to Lono Street
Komohana Avenue: Mohouli Street to Puainako Street
Manono Street: Kekuanaoa Street to Kuawa Street
Mamalahoa Highway: Phase 2 of 3 — Keopuka Heights Road to Hokukano Road
Palani Road/ Alii Drive: Phase 2 of 2 — Royal Poinciana Drive to Mamalahoa Bypass
Kinoole Street: Phase 2 of 2 — Lono Street to Haihai Street
Mamalahoa Highway: Phase 3 of 3 —Hokukano Road to Old Mamalahoa Highway
Waikoloa Road: Phase 1 of 2 — Queen Kaahumanu Highway (Route 19) to Pua Melia Street
Mohouli Street: Kilauea Avenue to Komohana Street
Haawina Street/Mamalahoa Highway: Kuakini Highway to Mamalahoa Highway (Rte 190)
Waikoloa Road: Phase 2 of 2 — Pua Melia Street to Mamalahoa Highway (Route 190)
Hina Lani Drive: Queen Kaahumanu Highway (Route 19) to Mamalahoa Highway (Route 190)