Over the years, when the Kihei Community Association (KCA) is advocating for some transportation improvement in South Maui, such as the North-South Collector Road or complete street projects, we are often told it requires "federal money." There seems to always be a huge challenge for Maui County to acquire that funding, causing years of delays on building these needed projects.
Now we get this blockbuster report that the state could lose nearly $800 million from the national Highway Trust Fund as early as this August because of inaction by the state Department of Transportation (DOT). This money is used to build and maintain highways, bridges and harbors.
State Sen. Kalani English, head of the Senate Transportation Committee, says that could mean big problems for Hawai'i in more ways than one. As reported on Honolulu TV and Maui radio, "The DOT is sitting on probably $800 million worth of federal moneys that haven't been expended, so really, the greater fear for me as a policymaker is that the Feds will come in and take the money back," English said.
A department spokesperson said the DOT recognizes the seriousness of the problem and is pushing projects forward, but the department acknowledges that there is a possibility the federal government could ask for the money back if it's not spent.
That $800 million could do a lot for our transportation needs. For example, in the DOT's recent presentation to the community, they list completion of the North-South Collector Road across Kihei at just over $51 million; or a four-lane bypass mauka of the Pi'ilani Highway at $128 million.
How and why is this happening? Who is in charge of this? And what can be done to rectify this situation?