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Sunday, May 18, 2003



H-3 interpretive
parks closer to reality

Meetings this week examine the
freeway's effect on cultural sites


Plans for two interpretive parks below the H-3 freeway are finally progressing, more than five years since the controversial roadway opened.

H-3 goes through Halawa Valley, where the valley floors beneath it are considered sacred ground by native Hawaiians because of heiaus and other cultural complexes discovered during the freeway's construction.

"For us it's a major milestone because it's a long, long time coming. This is the first part of the real exciting section of it," said Kahikina Akana, coordinator of the Halawa Luluku Interpretive Development project.

But H-3 activists who have participated in the planning say they have been frustrated at the project's pace. While they understand the need for a fair and clear plan, they want to move on with the actual work within Halawa Valley and at the Luluku terraces in Kaneohe, said Mahealani Cypher.

"We feel like we have worked on this long enough that we have a good enough idea of what kinds of mitigation programs can be developed to address the historic and cultural concerns raised during the H-3's construction," she said.

The project advisory group will hold meetings in Windward Oahu this week so residents can learn about the plans to mitigate any adverse impact in these valleys as a result of the construction of H-3, which opened in December 1997 following 37 years of construction and controversy.

The meetings will be at 7 p.m. tomorrow at Castle High School cafeteria and at 7 p.m. Thursday at Aliamanu Intermediate School cafeteria. Call 587-4392 for more information.

Akana explained that the creation of the interpretive parks is mandated under sections of the National Historic Preservation Act, which require the federal government to address any adverse impacts it undertakes.

The $1.3 billion, H-3 freeway is 16.1 miles long and cuts through the Koolau Range at Halawa Valley via a mile-long tunnel.

Akana said addressing the impact on these sites is unusual because such work will come after the project is completed, not before, as is usually the case.

"H-3 is one of those case studies that professors look at as to some things being done wrong because the thing is already built, so we're trying to comply with it after its being built," he said.

About $11 million in federal highway funds were set aside to develop the park in Halawa Valley and at the Luluku Terraces in Kaneohe in 1999. That same year, the state Department of Transportation and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs signed a cooperative agreement to oversee the project, but delays in getting started have pushed its completion date to August 2005 from 2001.

State transportation spokesman Scott Ishikawa said so far the Halawa Luluku Interpretive Development project has spent $789,000 of the $11.2 million.

Ishikawa said the money went to office staff, equipment, office space and the hiring of a planning and legal consultants.

Today, key issues facing project officials are the use of the access road in Halawa Valley; obtaining a right of way to the Kaneohe Interchange area in Luluku; ongoing land condemnation cases between the state and landowners; and the completion of all archaeology reports by the Bishop Museum.

Undaunted, Akana said he is "90 percent confident" he will make his deadline two years from now. And he is glad to have regained the trust of those who have opposed the freeway but are now involved in the interpretive park.

"It's taken some time to bridge that trust so that we could work together," he said. "As the coordinator, I'm hoping that it's the start of a good relationship between the community as well as the various agencies involved."

Ishikawa said an average of 40,000 vehicles travel on the H-3 every day.



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