Lā 288: All those jobs complained about that were "lost" in the shutdown of the TMT project, yet we still allow out of state companies to come in and bid against us! I don't hear much complaining now...

By BRET YAGER West Hawaii Today  January 7, 2016

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HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Saddle Road is seen here in July between the 6- and 7-mile markers.

Saddle Road is set to lose some of its last sharp curves and dangerous disposition.

Road and Highway Builders, an affiliate of Texas-based Sterling Construction Co., is the low bidder on a 6-mile stretch above Hilo, and work is set to start in the next few months, the company announced.

“We estimate the completion time will be two years, so it’s not a quick fix, but hopefully it will be done right this time,” said Jennifer Maxwell, director of investor relations for Sterling.

The rebuild and realignment of that roller-coaster portion of the road between the 5- and 11-mile markers above Hilo is set to cost $51 million to $57 million. The contract has not been awarded but should be finalized within the next couple of weeks, said Tim Sakahara, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.

The contract amount is still being determined, with the initial award at $50.7 million and a government option to add an additional $6 million by the end of March if funds become available, Sakahara said.

The stretch of highway includes numerous dangerous turns — one in particular that has been the site of several wrecks of Hilo-bound vehicles losing control on a sharp, outsloping bend at the bottom of a steep slope.

The existing road is full of such quirks of “character” that will give way to a wider, smoother and safer surface.

“Once the contract is signed, we just need a notice to proceed,” Maxwell said. “RHB has done quite a bit of work out there and we are excited to be doing another stretch of this roadway.”

RHB completed an earlier portion of the highway from 2009-11. The last project to remake the rugged cross-island highway was completed in September 2013 at the west end, bringing to $290 million the total poured into the road since 2004. The same year those 41 miles of the new road were finished, the Legislature voted to rename the thoroughfare the Daniel K. Inouye Highway, after the state’s late senator, famed for his ability to bring home federal money for the project and many others.

Email Bret Yager at byager@westhawaiitoday.com.