The Hawaii DOT (HDOT) has announced that it placed the $90 million Daniel K. Inouye Highway extension project on hiatus due to a dearth of funding sources at both the state and federal levels.
The Daniel K. Inouye Highway, also known as Saddle Road, is planned to be an expansive cross-island route from its current terminus at Mamalahoa Highway to Queen Kaahumanu Highway, a corridor recently recognized by Roads & Bridges’ Top 10 Roads Awards.
“The revenue funding source we were planning on using will not meet projections,” HDOT Spokeswoman Shelley Kunishige was quoted as saying by the Hawaii Tribune-Herald.
The funding source Kunishige referred to was enacted in January 2019 as a $5 per day rental car surcharge from which the state intended to draw funding in this coming year for the 10.5-mile road project.
Federal funding is not secure after next year, and with an anything-goes election cycle in the offing, officials are hedging their bets that this project can be brought to fruition as previously scheduled. Moreover, the onset of COVID-19 and the restrictions it has resulted in, both for local residents and the state’s lucrative tourism industry, have put an deep strain on the agency’s coffers.
The rental car surcharge was estimated to bring in $30 million based upon an estimate of 10 million annual visitors. The COVID-19 pandemic has more or less put paid to that.
“We will continue to submit the Saddle Road Extension project for consideration in federal discretionary grant opportunities,” said Kunishige. “HDOT will also continue with preparation of the project should funds become available.”
If you are curious about another recent Hawaii road project, learn about the Pali Highway rescue.