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County to see $66.5M under federal infrastructure bill

Funds will help with Maui County priority projects, including possibly highway realignment

A wave splashes on Honoapiilani Highway near the 13-mile marker in Ukumehame during a high tide in October 2020. With Maui County set to receive $66.5 million under the recently passed federal infrastructure bill, state officials are eyeing priority projects to put the money towards, including the the realignment of Honoapiilani Highway from Olowalu to Ukumehame. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Funding from the recently passed federal infrastructure bill could go toward realigning portions of Honoapiilani Highway, resurfacing Kahekili Highway and other priority projects in Maui County and throughout the state, according to state and federal officials.

Hawaii U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz told a Maui County Council committee on Thursday that Hawaii will receive at least $2.8 billion from the bill passed by Congress in November that will mainly go toward infrastructure, including fixing roads, bridges and just as “importantly, make it more resilient to climate change,” along with improving broadband.

Schatz said the measure is not like the CARES Act in which funds need to be used as soon a possible to help communities from the effects of COVID-19, but the bill is “really supposed to be a generational investment” to allow things to be done “expeditiously” but not in the same hurried manner as with COVID relief measures.

The federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will deliver funding to various priorities across the state, including a total of $1.2 billion in highway funds to Hawaii which will be allotted in increments beginning this fiscal year through 2026, said Ed Sniffen, deputy director of the Highways Division for the state Department of Transportation.

Of that total, Maui County will receive approximately $66.5 million over the five-year period that the bill covers, averaging around $13 million per fiscal year, Sniffen said during a presentation before the Maui County Council’s Infrastructure and Transportation Committee meeting Thursday morning.

Traffic barricades warn motorists of a steep drop-off on an Olowalu stretch of Honoapiilani Highway in September 2019.

Compared with funding in the past from the federal Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, or FAST Act, Sniffen said Hawaii will now receive a $40 million “plus-up” in fiscal 2022 with the new infrastructure bill. In 2021, under the FAST Act, Hawaii received $185 million in highway funds and now will see $224 million with the new measure.

“At the end of the five years, during this dependable funding period, we will be about $60 million over what the FAST Act numbers were,” Sniffen said. He called it “a good amount of money for us to move forward on the priorities the governor, the mayors and the associated legislators all said were the priorities for Hawaii.”

“That being said, if you look at that number over time, it’s not life-changing money. It’s significant. . . . It’s not like we can push those $150 million projects forward and get them done with this kind of money.”

Sniffen said the state needs to plan for the funds coming in and also needs be ready and aggressive, especially in trying to get other pots of federal money which are the discretionary grants also available to the states. He said these have the “life-changing money.”

Hawaii will be able to compete with other states for the discretionary federal funds which total around $50 billion.

The state has yet to receive the infrastructure bill funding, which is noncompetitive. However, once the state sees the funds, the money could go toward various projects deemed priorities in Maui County, Sniffen said.

Some of the projects and cost estimates include:

• $90 million for Honoapiilani Highway realignment from Olowalu to Ukumehame.

• $10 million for Haleakala Highway pavement repair.

• $4.4 million for Kahekili Highway resurfacing from Waiehu Beach Road to Camp Maluhia.

• $4 million for Honoapiilani Highway guardrail and shoulder improvements.

• $1.8 million for installation of enhanced pavement marking and new milled rumble strips at various locations.

• $1.4 million for Kahului Beach Road resurfacing.

• $500,000 for installation and replacement of signs at various locations.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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