Hawaiian Dredging Construction Co. Inc. – Kahului Airport Access Road

When the $2.7 billion effort to modernize Hawaii’s airports began in 2010, officials promised improvements that would accommodate increases in air traffic, meet heightened security requirements and make the passenger experience better. Much of that funding has gone toward new facilities, widening taxi lanes, parking lots and runway repairs. 

But some of the work that will improve the airport experience the most is taking place miles away from any runway or terminal. Companies such as Hawaiian Dredging Construction Co. Inc. are building new roads that will make getting to airports easier while alleviating traffic on nearby streets.

The island state’s airport modernization plan is being funded through an assortment of airport user fees such as airline rent and landing fees, federal grants, passenger facility charges and airport revenue bonds, according to the program’s website. Although the bulk of the funding – $750 million – is set aside for improvements at Honolulu International Airport, the state’s main airport, nearly every airstrip on the archipelago will see at least some benefit.

“We are making significant investments in our airports that will bring immediate and long-term benefits for the people of Hawaii, [including] improved facilities, enhanced safety and increased sustainability and energy savings,” former Gov. Neil Abercrombie said in 2013. “Identified in a partnership with state legislators, these priority projects coincide with the launch of an unprecedented energy-efficiency program that will cut energy use at our airports nearly in half, reduce our dependence on imported energy sources, provide savings on future energy costs and add jobs to our economy.”

Improving Access

One of the most critical projects in the long list of airport improvements is taking place outside Kahului Airport on the island of Maui. In August 2013 and April 2015, the state awarded contracts to Hawaiian Dredging Construction to build two segments of a new access road for the airport and a $331 million consolidated rental car facility with 4,900 stalls. 

According to state bid documents, the access road construction is expected to cost a total of $68.2 million – $21.7 million for the first phase and $46.5 million for phase two. The second phase has a higher cost due to landscaping, lighting, irrigation projects and the hookup to the airport itself.

Once completed, the access road will link Hana Highway directly with the existing airport loop road. Construction, which began in November 2013, consists of demolition, resurfacing and installation of asphalt, concrete pavement, gutters, a retaining wall, signing, lighting and drainage improvements. Traffic signals will also be installed at two intersections: Dairy Road and Pakaula Street, and where the new access road meets Hana Highway.

The access road is expected to divert airport traffic off surrounding streets. “Regional connectivity benefits from the project are anticipated, with the Kahului Airport Access Road providing congestion relief for Dairy Road, Keolani Place and Hana Highway/Haleakala Highway,” according to a 2012 Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) study. 

On Keolani Place road, the current primary entrance to the airport, the estimated traffic count is 17,300 vehicles per day, and was projected to reach 22,800 per day by 2025. The access road is expected to see 22,800 vehicles a day when it opens and 25,600 vehicles per day by 2035.

Executing Vision

The work underway today is the culmination of more than two decades of planning. The access road was initially proposed in the early 1990s and was included in the development of the Kahului Airport Master Plan in 1997. Because the road is being constructed on a vacant former agricultural field owned by the state, there will be no displacement of families and minimal impact to existing businesses, according to the environmental report.

Airport travelers are sure to appreciate the direct route the access road will provide, but nearby businesses will also benefit from the decreased congestion. Dairy Road has been a feeder street into Keolani Place and the airport for decades, but it also is an important route for the adjacent Maui Business Park. The state’s traffic analysis showed long delays to turn left from the side streets onto Dairy Road and afternoon backups caused by intersections without traffic signals, a frustration for daily commuters in the area.

When combined with other nearby road projects, it is expected the Kahului Airport Access Road will provide circulation redundancy between Pu’unene Avenue and Hana Highway, creating better access to retail shops and other businesses. 

“While the Airport Access Road will meet the long-term needs for serving the Kahului Airport at acceptable levels of services, its value is found in providing relief to the other routes to Kahului Airport,” the environmental study adds. 

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