State pushes 'aggressive' roadways repair plan


POSTED: Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Lingle administration is renewing efforts to get lawmakers to approve a “;holistic”; and “;aggressive”; $4.2 billion program for highway and traffic modernization, safety and education, state Transportation Director Brennon Morioka said yesterday.

His remarks coincided with a 38-page report that says 27 percent of Hawaii's roads are in “;poor condition”; and 43 percent of Hawaii's bridges are “;deficient and obsolete.”;

Will Wilkins, executive director of a national highways user lobby called TRIP, released the study yesterday, ranking the state the fourth worst for road conditions, behind New Jersey, California and Rhode Island.

Morioka and Wilkins urged passage of federal and state legislation to allocate more funds for the state's roads and bridges.

In Hawaii, Morioka said the administration's $4.2 billion highways modernization proposal is stalled in a House-Senate conference committee and no action is expected until the Legislature opens in January.

Besides highway improvements, the administration bill also calls for guardrails and shoulder improvements, rockfall prevention, bridge rehabilitation, addition of contraflow lanes, and bicycle and pedestrian projects, and paves the way for a system in which the state could tax motorists based on miles driven.

In Congress, Wilkins said the 5-year-old Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act—which dictates federal spending for highway and public transit programs—will expire at the end of the month. President Barack Obama and the Senate are supporting an 18-month extension of the federal highways act, while the House is pushing a $500 billion six-year extension.

Federal funds account for 44 percent of the money spent on state roads, bikeways, highways and bridge construction, repairs and maintenance. The rest comes from a special state highway fund.

The TRIP report said from 1998 to 2008, Hawaii received $1.8 billion in federal funding for roads, highways and bridges. However, because of the slowdown in the nation's economy and with people driving less, state highway money from the Federal Highway Trust Fund may be cut by 38 percent beginning in October.

Among projects that need funds are portions of the H-1 Freeway, Farrington Highway and Fort Weaver Road on Oahu, the Big Island's Kealakehe Parkway, and Haleakala Highway on Maui, the report stated. The report listed 23 bridges and state interchanges that needed repair and replacement on Oahu.