to turn on improving
the Saddle Road
The U.S. highway agencyBy Rod Thompson
hopes construction and
rerouting begin in 2001
Big Island Correspondent
HILO -- Boris and Rogene Huber-Bejerana's friends can only shake their heads in amazement at the couple's daily drive over the narrow, twisting, pothole-strewn Saddle Road from Hilo to West Hawaii.
The Huber-Bejeranas do it because they live in Hilo but their jobs are at the Hilton Waikoloa Village resort 67 miles away.
"People think we're crazy doing it every day," Boris said of the 1 1/4-hour drive.
Now the Federal Highway Administration is offering some relief.
The agency last week issued a final decision on a new route for the Saddle Road.
The agency has $1.5 million in design money for the first leg of improvements, bypassing the military Pohakuloa Training Area, said project manager David Gedeon.
The agency hopes to get the $46.3 million for the 12.7-mile stretch next year and to begin construction in mid-2001, he said.
The Army wants the bypass in order to get civilian traffic out of the segment that crosses the base, said Lt. Col. Dennis Owen.
"They don't like to mix their tanks with our cars," said Marnie Herkes, who sat on a Saddle Road advisory group.
Boris Huber-Bejerana said he doesn't mind driving the road now, although at first, driving it made his wife carsick.
He still has to change the car's shock absorbers regularly and crawl underneath to tighten bolts.
Beginning with Mayor Dante Carpenter in the 1980s, some improvements were made on the road by Hawaii County on the Hilo side.
"The Kona side still needs a lot of work," Huber-Bejerana said.
That includes the Pohakuloa leg and a connecting segment that climbs over a steep ridge toward Waimea.
The Waimea section will be replaced by a completely new 9.6-mile alignment which points toward Kailua-Kona.
But military money can't be spent on that portion, and there's no telling when the Federal Highway Administration will get the $39.6 million it needs, Gedeon said.
In total, the entire 47-mile route, plus environmental measures, will cost $165.2 million.
The approved routes are the same as those recommended by a federal, state and county team in 1998.
Truckers make little use of Saddle Road. "It's a roller coaster," said Gail Cantor of Cantor Brothers Hauling Services.
The company had a truck once that went out of control on a curve and ended up "totaled" in a pasture, she said.
But the normal Hilo-to-Kona truck route, north around the island through Waimea, is becoming congested, Cantor said. Driving the road recently, she passed 70 to 80 trucks at 5 a.m., she said.
"If they would straighten (Saddle Road), it would really save us a lot of time," she said.
Planned this week throughout Oahu:
Ewa BeachFort Weaver Road from Farrington Highway to Hanakahi Street.
WaianaeHakalina Road from Pahihi to Puhawai roads.
KuniaVicinity of Kunia Interchange to Waikele Stream Bridge and from Kupuna Loop to Farrington Highway; Kunia and Fort Weaver roads; H-1 freeway ramps 5 and 5-B and all other ramps in Kunia Interchange; and H-1 freeway in the vicinity of Kunia Interchange, Makakilo-bound lanes.
WahiawaKilani Avenue from Holoku Place to Ilima Street; and Mala and Ilima streets.
WaipioFarrington Highway, Leoole to Awanui streets; and Paiwa to Leoku streets.
WaipahuWaipahu Street from Amokii Street to Waikele Road.
AieaMoanalua Road from Punanani Channel to Pali Momi Street; Kaonohi Street between Alania and Kahapili streets; Kahapili Street between Kaonohi and Kaonohi streets; Maohu and Heleconia places; and Akaaka, Ilee, Kulawai and Kaamilo streets.
Pearl CityKomo Mai Drive from Waimano Home Road to Hookupa Street.
Foster VillageHalupa Street from Haloa Drive to Punihi Street.
Salt LakeAla Ilima and Likini streets.
KalihiMakuahine and Kalihi streets; Dillingham Boulevard between Waiakamilo Road and North King Street; Kamanaiki Street from Violet to Laulani streets; and Kapalama, School, Moani, Laulani, Puolani, Noe, North School and Pahulu streets.
LilihaLiliha Street from North King Street to Vineyard Boulevard; and Huli Street.
NuuanuKimo Drive Bridge; Kaohinani Drive from Kimo to Pelekane drives; Kahawalu Drive between Kaohinani and Niolopua drives; Kahawalu Drive; Ragsdale and Homelani places; and Old Pali Road.
ChinatownKing, River and Bethel streets.
KakaakoKeawe Street on Ala Moana, South and Queen streets, and Nimitz Highway and River Street to end at Hotel Street; and Coral Street from Ala Moana to Auahi Street.
MakikiKeeaumoku and Heulu streets; and Piikoi at Lewalani drives.
MoiliiliKahoaloha Lane from Kuilei Lane to South King Street; and Kuulei Street from Kahoaloha Lane to University Avenue.
PaloloKeanu Street between 8th Avenue and Sierra Drive; and 9th and 10th avenues between Keanu Street and Waialae Avenue.
WaialaeAha Nui Place; Ainakoa Avenue; and Malia and Makaikoa streets.
WaikikiAla Wai Boulevard between Ala Moana and Kalakaua Avenue; McCully Street between Ala Wai and Kapiolani boulevards; and Kalakaua and Kuhio avenues.
Wilhelmina RiseMaunahilu, Pakolu and Pili places; and Paula Drive between Maunahilu Place and Iwi Way.
KaaawaKamehameha Highway from Mahe Point to Lau Place.
KahaluuAhuimanu Road; and Kialua, Hoopala and Poomau streets.
HauulaKeala, Kawaipapa and Puuowaa roads; Waikulama Street; and Kamehameha Highway from Pipilani to Kaupau places.
KailuaKalanianaole Highway, Kamehameha Highway to Kapaa Quarry Road; Ililani Street from Mokapu Boulevard to Iliwahi Loop; Iliwahi Loop to Ilimano Street; Iliaina Street from Ililani Street to Iliwahi Loop and from Ilihau Street to end; Alahaki and Akupa streets; and Ilikaa, Akupa and Nanaloko places.
WaimanaloAhiki Street; Kaaiai Street from Huli to Nakini streets; and Kumuhau Street from Waikupanaha to Mahailua streets.
KaneoheKeaahala Road from Anoi Road to Keaahala Place.
Kalani ValleyKalaniiki Street and Kalanikai Place.
Hawaii KaiKalanianaole Highway from Nawiliwili Street to Sandy Beach Park entrance; and from Hanauma Bay to Sandy Beach.
Hawaii Senior Olympics10K race, 7 a.m. tomorrow from/to Keehi Lagoon Park, along Aolele and Paiea streets and Nimitz Frontage Road.
MADD DashWalk/race, 4 p.m. tomorrow from the Civic Center grounds; along King, Victoria, Beretania and King streets; and ending at Sky Gate.