By TOM CALLIS
Tribune-Herald staff writer
It’s known to anyone who drives it as “Saddle Road,” but Highway 200, as it is officially labled, deserves a more distinguished name, the state Legislature decided Tuesday.
The state Senate, following the House’s lead, adopted a resolution renaming the road connecting East and West Hawaii the “Daniel K. Inouye Legacy Highway” after the much-admired late U.S. senator.
The state Department of Transportation would be responsible for carrying out the resolution.
DOT spokeswoman Caroline Slutyer said the agency plans to rename the road once the realignment project is finished.
The project, which Inouye championed, has been funded through three phases totalling about $120 million.
The fourth phase is estimated to cost another $45 million to $50 million. No money has yet been appropriated.
Mayor Billy Kenoi, who once served as an intern for Inouye, applauded the adoption of the resolution.
“It’s entirely appropriate that this road that bridges East and West Hawaii is named in honor of a man who committed his life to serving Hawaii, bringing people together and helping Hawaii island,” he said.
Inouye helped funnel federal dollars to make the cross-island trek safer and faster through his position as Senate Appropriations Committee chair.
Work on the third phase of realignment, from about mile marker 42 to Mamalahoa Highway, began in 2011.
The fourth phase, from Mamalahoa Highway to Waikoloa Beach Drive, is in the early planning stages.
The road won’t be alone in bearing the name of Inouye, who died in December after serving in Congress since statehood.
The University of Hawaii Board of Regents on Feb. 21 voted to name UH-Hilo’s College of Pharmacy after him. He was credited with securing funding to get the school established.
The Senate on Tuesday also adopted a resolution requesting the U.S. government rename the Kilauea Point lighthouse on Kauai after Inouye.
Another bill had been introduced to rename the East-West Center in Honolulu after him.
That bill has since died, said Sen. Malama Solomon, who introduced it.
Solomon, D-North Hawaii, said last week the bill didn’t progress through the Legislature because the Inouye family preferred the other dedications.
Future funding for the road improvements are less certain since Inouye’s passing.
He was one of the most senior members of the Senate, and his position as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee made it easier to secure funds.
Along with the retirement of U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, also a long-serving member of Congress, the state’s Congressional delegation remains much less experienced.
Hawaii’s two U.S. senators have indicated they’ll try to get funding, but they could make no guarantees.
U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, the Democrat appointed to fill Inouye’s unexpired term, has been assigned to the Commerce, Science and Transportation committees, putting him a good position to seek more money for the road.
On Tuesday, the Senate also passed several bills that would put Hawaii County in control of the Banyan Drive area, host to East Hawaii’s largest hotels, and the Mauna Kea and Hapuna state recreation areas.
Those bills need the House’s approval and Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s signature to become law.
Email Tom Callis at firstname.lastname@example.org.