The long-awaited Laaloa Avenue extension is moving closer to reality, with the county expecting to have the makai-mauka connector complete before the year’s end.
That’s a little later than the mid-2014 opening officials were hoping for, but work is moving forward with the December hiring of a contractor for the second phase. Isemoto Contracting Inc., the contractor for the first phase, also won the contract for the second phase when bids were opened, Brandon Gonzales, deputy director for the Department of Public Works, said Friday.
“The goal is to improve traffic circulation in the entire area,” Gonzales said.
The 1,900-foot extension will bring Laaloa Avenue from its intersection with Laelae Street to Kuakini Highway. Work began in July 2013.
The project is split in two phases: the mauka portion that requires the new construction and was estimated to cost about $14 million, but actually came in at nearly half that amount; and a lower portion where Laaloa connects with Alii Drive, which has been estimated to cost about $5 million. The Hawaii County Council in 2011 authorized a $20 million bond for both phases.
The second phase will improve slopes and drainage on the existing roadway as well as add curbs, gutters, sidewalks and bike lanes, Gonzales said. It will also include improvements to ensure motorists have a clear line of sight when entering and exiting Laaloa Avenue.
Once built, the connection will be the first in a 3.5-mile stretch of Alii Drive between Royal Poinciana Drive and Kamehameha III Road. It will provide another means for egress during an evacuation or other emergency.
Kona Councilman Dru Kanuha, who has been pushing for more makai-mauka connections to make evacuation from Alii Drive easier in emergencies, said he hoped the Laaloa extension could be completed by summer. He said Friday he could see earth-moving equipment working on the roadway.
“That is one of several I’m expecting to see along Alii Drive,” he said.
Kanuha said he’s looking forward to more such connectors, in particular Nani Kailua Drive and Lako Street, once the Laaloa work is wrapped up. Kanuha recently added $3 million to the county capital improvement projects budget — the county project “wish list” — to get engineering work started on Nani Kailua.
“That’s a big one, right in town,” Kanuha said.
The county also is continuing to work on the Lako Street extension, but archaeological discoveries slowed progress. Gonzales said once the archaeological studies are done, the county will have to plan a road route around any findings and then commence acquiring the right of way for the road.
Email Nancy Cook Lauer at firstname.lastname@example.org.