HONOLULU (KHON2) — A $70 million plan to relocate a runway at Līhuʻe Airport is underway and transportation officials said it is all about safety.

Runway 3-21 does not meet Federal Aviation Administration requirements, but there is no easy fix and it has taken years to come up with a solution.

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All U.S. airports are required to have 1,000 feet of Runway Safety Area (RSA) at the end of each landing strip. It is because of an FAA mandate that was put in place at the end of 2015, but Līhuʻe Airport got an exemption due to land constraints.

Runway 3-21 is less than 300 feet from the ocean.

A map of Runway 3-21 shows the RSA is only a few hundred feet from hitting the ocean. Ross Higashi, deputy director at the Department of Transportation’s Airports Division, said Līhuʻe was exempted from the FAA mandate in 2015 due to the land constraint.

“Believe it or not, it did take six years,” Higashi said. “We had to do an environmental assessment and we also had to redo our our airport layout plan.”

Higashi said it takes approval from the FAA as well. The RSA will have to be 855 feet longer to meet FAA standards — at a cost of about $70 million.

“And the reason why the price tag will be in the vicinity of about $70 million is because we’re gonna have to add to an area to that, for that 855 feet, which would, we’d have to add soil and compaction and so forth to bring everything level.”

Ross Higashi, HDOT Airports Division deputy director

Līhuʻe’s House representative, James Tokioka, said the runway has not had issues with planes landing or taking off since the 2015 FAA mandate.

“They just want to make sure all the T’s and all the I’s were dotted,” Rep. Tokioka said about the FAA, “if that’s what it takes to be totally in compliance, then that’s what we’re doing now.”

Construction will shift the runway slightly west — away from the ocean — without touching the other landing strip. Higashi stressed the project is not about increasing traffic or travel capacity to Kauai; It’s about protecting every passenger.

“I want to emphasize that this is not to allow larger aircraft,” Higashi said, “or more tourists or whatnot coming into the Garden Isle. It’s all about runway safety and being in compliance with FAA mandated standards.”

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HDOT officials expect construction to be done by May, 2025 with no disruptions to incoming or outgoing travel.