NEW & NOTEWORTHY: Spaceport Setback, Crumbling Highway

posted in: August 2016 | 0
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A crumbling section of Kamehameha Highway in Kaaawa.

$10M in Band-Aids: The O`ahu Metropolitan Planning Organization has proposed appropriating $10.1 million to the state Department of Transportation (DOT) to design and construct repairs to sections of Kamehameha Highway between Kualoa and Hau`ula that are threatening to fall into the sea. The agency has decided to include the new project in the June 3 revision of its 2015-2018 Transportation Improvement Program, which must still receive final approval from its policy board but was approved last month by its community advisory council.

The DOT has recently had to make repeated emergency repairs to shore up parts of the two-lane coastal highway that crumbled onto the beach, but waves have continued to hammer the road and sections again seem on the verge of giving way.

As of May, the department had planned to conduct spot mitigation at areas along the highway in Ka`a`awa, Punalu`u, and Hau`ula, with work being completed in January 2018. But under OMPO’s new proposal, the DOT will spend $100,000 this year designing repairs to those sections, and $10 million next year constructing them. While the design phase would be 80 percent federally funded, the state would cover half of the construction costs.

Spaceport Setback: The state Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism has been trying to resurrect the notion of a spaceport on the Big Island for several years now – this time for a space-launch facility at the Kona airport that would service only horizontally-launched reusable vehicles.

Last month, however, the state procurement officer denied DBEDT’s request to extend the term of a no-bid contract for the required environmental studies to RS&H (Reynolds, Smith & Hills), a company in Jacksonville, Florida.

DBEDT awarded the company the $500,000 contract (half federal funds, half state) in 2012 to begin the technical studies to support the state’s application to the Federal Aviation Administration for a spaceport license. It also is paying RS&H $80,000 to make the application.

In June, DBEDT asked the state procurement office to approve an extension to the contract to prepare documents compliant with the National Environmental Policy Act. “Due to an oversight on the contract amendment last year, we are now requesting an amendment to the original exemption through December 31, 2016,” DBEDT’s Jeffrey Pang stated in the request. “We shall be more diligent in complying with this requirement prospectively.”

The procurement officer was not pleased and disapproved the process as the original procurement exemption (PE) “has already expired along with the original contract with the vendor. A new PE shall be filed to cover the remaining work.”

According to Pang, the decision “will slow things down. We’ve got to process some paperwork to initiate the work again.”

One of the bumps in the road came as the Department of Transportation changed the proposed site for the launch facility, from the south end of the Kona airport to the north. This, Pang said, prompted a second review of the application by the FAA.

He’s hopeful work will be completed by the end of the year.

Quote of the Month

“So, basically, what you’re saying … is you’re going to have close to $300 million in costs before you can get a nickel out of the property.” 

— Deputy attorney general William Wynhoff on the `Aina Le`a development

Volume 27, Number 2 August 2016

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