Funding released for airport upgrades

Nearly $60 million for improvements at Kahului Airport, ranging from repairing the apron fronting the main terminal to replacement of aging passenger loading bridges, was released by Gov. Neil Abercrombie late last month.

The largest individual release of airport funds, $34.5 million, was for structural pavement improvements to the terminal apron at Kahului Airport. This is the area where aircraft park, load and unload passengers, and refuel.

The project includes some reconstruction to Taxiway A, which runs parallel to the main Runway 2-20, state Department of Transportation spokeswoman Caroline Sluyter said in an email last week. Some taxiway repair will involve 17-inch-deep reconstruction, but most of the repairs will be 3-inch mill and replacement.

Work on this second phase of the project is expected to begin toward the end of the year, she said.

Another $9.6 million released by the governor will be used to remove and replace the passenger loading bridges with seven new bridges that can “accommodate wide-body aircraft with direct overseas routes,” the governor’s news release said.

When asked to clarify the types of planes the new bridges can handle, Sluyter said that the bridges will be designed to handle “all wide-body aircraft in use today.” She said that currently the only “overseas flights” come from the Mainland.

The governor also released $6.5 million for the replacement of 10 elevators, three escalators and four moving walkways at Kahului Airport.

The often “nonmoving” walkways have been an issue for the last several years, drawing complaints from fliers. Repairs to the broken walkways were held up by problems with a maintenance company that ended up court. That problem recently was resolved, and a new maintenance company has been hired.

The walkways also are old, with replacement parts not easily found, transportation and airport officials have said.

Sluyter said that three of the four long moving walkways at the airport currently are operating and that the department is waiting to confirm a repair schedule for the handrail on the fourth walkway. A specialized subcontractor from the Mainland has to come to the airport to fix the damaged portions of the handrail.

Repairs to two shorter moving walkways are tentatively scheduled for completion by the end this month, though the timing is subject to change, she said. Work on the troublesome walkways continue, with timing based on available funding in each phase of the maintenance and repair contract, she said.

Other funds released by the governor for Kahului Airport:

* An additional $7 million for design of roadway improvements and the consolidated car rental facility, which will bring the majority of the car rental companies under one roof at the airport.

* $1.5 million for design work for the reroofing of the airport terminal building.

The funds for Kahului Airport were part of $147.8 million released by the governor for capital improvement projects at Hawaii’s harbors, airports and highways.

“Many of these projects will transform our transportation infrastructure, facilitate commerce and improve visitor, resident and business travel throughout our state,” Abercrombie said in the news release. “I’d like to acknowledge the state legislators for recognizing these worthy investments.”

The release of funds included $550,000 for the master plan and noise compatibility program update at Lanai Airport. Billionaire Larry Ellison, who purchased most of Lanai about a year ago, has mentioned building another runway in his vision for the island.

Sluyter said that “a second runway could conceivably be an alternative for the airport” but that “it is too early to determine if or when a second runway will be needed.” The master planning process needs to run its course first.

During the master planning process, a forecast study will be conducted that will predict estimated growth for the airport, she explained.

“The master planning process will look at facility needs based on the forecast and meetings with stakeholders to provide alternatives for improvements to the airport,” she said.

The Maui County highway CIP projects, for which the governor released funds, follow:

* $386,000 for the design to widen Puunene Avenue from two to four lanes between Kamehameha Avenue and Kuihelani Highway. The funds cover drainage improvements, left-turn-lane and traffic-signal studies.

* $76,000 to complete design for landscape treatment and erosion control along Hana Highway and Kaahumanu Avenue.

* $29,500 for land purchase and design for the replacement of the Makakupaia Stream Bridge on Kamehameha V Highway on Molokai.

* Lee Imada can be reached at