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Long road ahead for Salt Lake job


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POSTED: Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The widening of Salt Lake Boulevard has been a community priority for the past six years, neighborhood board member Lennard Pepper says.

But the entire project is decades older than that.

First started in the 1970s, the project to widen the road that runs from Puuloa Road in Mapunapuna to Kamehameha Highway by Aloha Stadium still has one mile to go and could take at least an additional six years, said Collins Lam, deputy director of the city Department of Design and Construction.

The construction, from two lanes to four, has faced several challenges that delayed the project, from getting funding to relocating utilities and drainage problems.

The city is planning to widen the last stretch at a cost of $60 million to $80 million, Lam said.

Salt Lake Neighborhood Board Chairman Maurice Morita said the boulevard is important as an alternate route for drivers between Honolulu and Leeward Oahu when there is congestion on Moanalua Freeway or Kamehameha Highway. But the two-lane portion of the roadway creates a bottleneck.

Already, the City Council has appropriated about $6 million for the project's planning, Lam said. After a consultant is selected, an environmental impact statement will be prepared over two years, and then the project will be designed over another two years, Lam said. Construction alone could take two to four years, he said.

Federal funds could pay for 80 percent of the project with the rest coming from the city, he said.

In 2005 the city finished the last portion of the road to be widened—between Bougainville Drive and Maluna Street. That portion had been delayed one year by “;unforeseen conditions,”; including the discovery of buried gas canisters that were handled like toxic waste because no one knew what was inside.

The upcoming portion—between Maluna and Ala Lilikoi streets—has already been delayed by a City Council vote in February 2007 to build the transit route through Salt Lake.

The road's widening was put on hold because the city expected to finish the project in conjunction with the rail going through Salt Lake.

But in early 2009 the City Council voted to change the Salt Lake route to the airport, and the widening project was revived.

At the October neighborhood board meeting, members discussed a list of potential priorities for the neighborhood, including finishing Salt Lake Boulevard.

Pepper said the expansion project should be the neighborhood's priority.

He said traveling Honolulu-bound on the boulevard, two lanes merge into one where the previous expansion ends, creating a danger for drivers not accustomed to the area. The last project “;created a hazardous situation they haven't resolved.”;