Highway widening
on Big Island begins

KAILUA-KONA » Gov. Linda Lingle and state Transportation Director Rodney Haraga broke ground yesterday for widening 2.5 miles of Queen Kaahumanu highway to four lanes in Kailua-Kona, the state announced.

The $28.6 million project, awarded to Hawaiian Dredging & Construction Co., is scheduled for completion in the spring of 2007.

Traffic on the two-lane highway in the area has been a major problem since the road reached its capacity in 1998.

Last year Mayor Harry Kim announced a "concurrency" policy that stopped just short of a moratorium on new development in the area until the highway is widened. "Concurrency" means the county will not grant permits for new developments that depend on the highway or add traffic to it unless they are scheduled to be completed at the same time the highway widening will be completed.

The current widening project will not achieve that, since an additional five miles of widening is needed to relieve congestion. Planning for that phase is under way, Department of Transportation officials said, but no timetable was announced.

The new four-lane highway will feature a median strip to separate traffic moving in opposite direction. Currently, drivers trying to pass have to drive into the lane of oncoming traffic, risking head-on collisions, department officials said.

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