Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Tetsuo Harano, former state highways administrator, stood in 1994 before the H-3 freeway tunnels named in his honor. The tunnels recently were renamed after former Gov. John Burns.

H-3 honoree against
tunnel name change

Question: The Star-Bulletin reported that the H-3 tunnels have been renamed after former Gov. John A. Burns. Weren't they already named for state highway engineer-administrator Tetsuo Harano? I (and probably the Harano family) am curious about the reason for the name change. There already is a bronze bust and plaque of Gov. Burns at the entrance to Aloha Stadium (as well as the medical school named after him at the University of Hawaii).

Q: I understand Gov. Ben Cayetano is renaming the H-3 tunnels for John A. Burns. Whatever happened to Tets Harano, for which the tunnels were originally named? Is he still living, and did he give his blessings to rename the tunnel?

Answer: Harano is retired and, although Gov. Cayetano's spokeswoman said she understood he was "OK" with no longer having the tunnels named after him, Harano said yesterday he "just couldn't accept it."

After 52 years with the state Department of Transportation, the state highways chief retired in 1994, shortly after the $262.5 million tunnels were named in his honor.

Kim Murakawa, Cayetano's spokeswoman, said the tunnels were renamed for Burns "because he was the originator of the H-3. Without Burns' approval, the state would not have moved forward."

In addition to having the H-3 control room named after Harano instead, a plaque would be affixed to a tunnel wall "to honor Harano and other workers, both state and private, who helped build the tunnel," Murakawa said.

In November 1994 the Star-Bulletin reported that Harano, then 74, would be taking the inaugural ride through the tunnels, which state officials decided to name in his honor in recognition of his efforts in getting the H-3 built. It would be more than three years before the freeway would be completed and opened to the public.

"The governor's chauffeur will be driving, and I'll have the free ride," Harano said in 1994.

He also said he was touched by the honor of having the tunnels named after him but did think it was "kind of odd," since such honors usually aren't given to a living person.

The Department of Transportation said yesterday that former Transportation Director Rex Johnson recommended that the tunnels be named after Harano, with then-Gov. John Waihee giving his "blessing." The H-3 tunnels were then named after Harano by concurrent resolution of the 1994 state Legislature.

On March 19, 2001, Cayetano issued an executive memorandum to rename the tunnels after Burns while naming the H-3's control center the "Tetsuo Harano Control Center." However, it wasn't until last month that action was taken on that memo, a transportation spokeswoman said.

Harano told "Kokua Line" that Cayetano has never directly contacted him but that transportation officials "have been telling me about it (the name change)" for several years.

"I didn't quite agree, so nothing has happened, until recently," he said.

Asked what reason he was given, he said it was "just that the governor wanted to change the name. I'm sure he had some pressure somewhere."

Asked how he felt, Harano said "it certainly was an honor" when the tunnels were named for him, and when informed of the planned change, "I never agreed to it. I've always been against it. I just couldn't accept it."

He also said he "had difficulty explaining it" to his family and that a number of people have called him, "expressing surprise" at the decision.

"It's just that the top person in the state wanted to do it," he said. "I guess he felt he had the power to do it."

Waihee did not immediately return a phone call asking for comment.

As for the tunnels' control room being named after him instead, Harano chuckled. "That was the counterproposal that they made," he said.

Meanwhile, he said he is just trying "to enjoy my retirement" and drives through the tunnels that once bore his name "once in a while."

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