First Phase of Hawaii DOT’s Saddle Road Project Finished Months Ahead of Schedule

AASHTO Journal, 14 December 2012

The first phase in a major project to rehabilitate a vital route on the Big Island of Hawaii was completed last month by the Hawaii Department of Transportation, allowing the project to move forward six full months ahead of schedule and on budget.

Saddle Road, which extends almost 45 miles from Hilo (on the east side of the island) to Waikaloa (on the west side), was originally built in 1942 by the U.S. Army to serve as an emergency access road during World War II to quickly deploy military vehicles and personnel in case of an attack. During recent years, portions of the road have required substantial rehabilitation to keep up with federal highway standards and improve safety. The road is a primary route for residents and tourists and is one of only three major routes to connect the┬áBig Island’s major population centers.

HDOT partnered with the Federal Highway Administration for the Saddle Road West Side project, which will reconstruct the west side of Saddle Road on a new alignment between existing Saddle Road milepost 41.5 and State Route 190, Mamalahoa Highway. The first phase, in which HDOT completed a 1.2 million cubic yard grading of the roadway, was completed six full months ahead of schedule and within the $33.7 million budget due to the close partnership between HDOT and FHWA’s Central Lands Highway Division.

HDOT and its contractor will begin construction on the final phase of the project, which includes paving and final touches on the roadway. When finished, the roadway will offer a safer and more accessible route linking both sides of the island and providing a faster travel time to those who use it.

The entire Saddle Road West Side project is scheduled to cost $64.5 million and has received $13.5 million in federal Transportation Income Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant funding. The project is expected to be completed in August 2013.

Additional information on the Saddle Road project is available at


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