EXCLUSIVE: H1 Freeway project not finished; millions in upgrades still required

EXCLUSIVE: H1 Freeway project not finished; millions in upgrades still required
Published: Feb. 24, 2015 at 10:27 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 25, 2015 at 2:36 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The administration of former Gov. Neil Abercrombie, which unveiled an H1 Freeway re paving and improvement project just days before the primary election last year, decided against including key safety upgrades that would have taken months longer to complete, Hawaii News Now has learned.

The state finished an 11-month project late last July on the Honolulu portion of the H1 Freeway between Punchbowl and Middle Streets. It spent $42 million adding an extra lane in both directions and re-surfacing the freeway for the first time since the late 1990's.

Hawaii News Now has learned the state still needs to spend about $5.5 million to replace outdated guardrails with concrete barrier walls at 10 overpasses and off ramps along the same stretch of freeway.

"I think it's ridiculous. They should have done it right the first time. It's a waste of money to do it more than once," said Dustin Cordeiro of Kaimuki, who drives the H1 freeway daily.

Abercrombie's administration held a dedication ceremony for the freeway project on Aug. 1, just eight days before Abercrombie's historic defeat in the primary election.

Sources said state DOT officials knew the guardrail and shoulder improvements still needed to be done but decided to end the job before the election, without completing that extra work to build new concrete barrier walls that meet current Federal Highway Administration requirements.

State transportation officials in the new administration of Gov. David Ige said they don't know why the Abercrombie administration did not include the guardrail upgrades.

"I cannot speak to past decisions on project delivery," said Ed Sniffen, the state's deputy transportation director for highways. "We will focus on fulfilling the current and future needs of the public."

"The project will have minimal effect on the recently improved facilities, but will require lane closures to complete," Sniffen added.

The project still needs environmental clearances and is estimated to go out to bid in the middle of next year, with construction starting in late 2016 at the earliest, DOT spokesman Tim Sakahara said.

Drivers weren't happy they will once again have to endure construction on this same portion of the H1.

"It's really inconvenient but it's got to be done. What are you going to do? No sense complaining about it," said Charley Lambert of Kaneohe, who said she tries to avoid the freeway and takes local streets when she can.

Kali Martinez, who was preparing to use H1 as he left downtown Honolulu on his way home to Mililani said, "I know it's all for the good. But to me, I just think they should do it at night, to make it easier for people."

The locations where guardrails will be replaced with new concrete barrier walls include: the Kalihi interchange, Kahauiki Interchange, Houghtailing Street underpass, Vineyard off ramp, Liliha access road, Liliha Street overpass, Aala Street overpass, the Nuuanu Avenue overpass and the Pali Highway exchange, Sakahara said.

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