Aloha –

The March meeting of the Economic Development Committee (EDC) was another informative one, this time featuring Director of the County Department of Public Works (DPW), Ikaika Rodenhurst. Top priorities at DPW include reviewing and streamlining processes throughout their systems, focusing on FEMA and other Federally funded projects, maintaining and upgrading signs, roads, and bridges, and improving communications internal to the County office and outward through gatherings like the EDC. Director Rodenhurst works closely with the Director of the County Planning Department, Zendo Kern, on various projects. DPW is hiring an additional plan reviewer to help expedite DPW processes. They are also considering implementing an online dashboard to show the current status of various major projects, consistent with Mayor Roth’s efforts to increase public visibility into County projects.

Some of the East Hawai‘i major road projects that are being worked on includes Kalanianaole Avenue, Kilauea Avenue, and Waianuenue Avenue. Director Rodenhurst acknowledged the delays associated with completing work on Kalanianaole Avenue, indicating completion remains a high priority for DPW. Work on Kilauea Avenue is now underway and Waianuenue Avenue improvements are in a design phase, awaiting clarity about the availability of Federal funds. In West Hawaii, near-term focus is on improving Henry Street and starting work on the new extension of Daniel K. Inouye Highway to Queen Kaahumanu Highway, probably using a roundabout to manage traffic at the intersection of DKI Hwy and Hwy 190.  

Given the expansion of bike sharing in Hilo, EDC members expressed concern about factoring bike lanes and similar accommodations in roadway improvement projects. The lack of downtown parking was also discussed, the idea being to create parking within walking distance of the downtown area to help with surges in demand for special events, as well as daily parking demands.

We discussed outcomes from the recent County Sustainability Summit, among them advances in the mass transit system, with consideration being given to setting up hubs across the island to improve services. DPW’s role in that would be to provide infrastructure for the hubs, helping enable the new transportation services.

At the time of the meeting it wasn’t clear yet what the impact of the recent America Rescue Plan Act funding would be on the County’s budget and therefore DPW plans. That could help offset expenses with a variety of County infrastructure projects, stimulating the economy in the process with additional construction jobs. Overall it was a great exchange of information and ideas between Director Rodenhurst and EDC members.

Our next guest speaker will be Zendo Kern, Director of the County Planning Department, on April 14 at 3:00. Please join us if you can for another interesting set of presentations and Q&A from leaders in our County office!

Mahalo,

Doug Simons