Following the end of World War II in 1945, the Army turned over jurisdiction of the road to the Territory of Hawai‘i and was designated Route 20 but the territorial government had few funds to maintain the road, let alone upgrade it to civilian standards. The story was the same as the newly formed State of Hawai‘i took over jurisdiction in 1959. Saddle Road was subsequently handed to the County of Hawai‘i and for many years only minimal maintenance was performed, leading to generally poor conditions and the source of the road's notorious reputation.
In recent years there has been increased attention on the road, with efforts to rebuild and renovate the highway into a practical cross island route. This has culminated in the repaving of some sections and complete rebuilding of others.
The terrain becomes the high lava desert of the Humu‘ula Saddle. Two roads intersect Saddle Road close to Pu‘u Huluhulu at its crest near MILE 28 at 6,632 feet (2,021 metres) above sea level:
The entirely new six and a half mile segment from milepost 28 to 35 was dedicated and opened to traffic on May 29th, 2007 with Senator Daniel K. Inouye as the keynote speaker and other local dignitaries in attendance. The new segment is some of the best road on the island, quite a contrast to the roadway it replaced further out into the Pōhakuloa Training Area. The old section of roadway included some of the more dangerous features of the old Saddle Road. This included a sharp curve, blind corner and one way bridge near the entrance to Mauna Kea State Park that was acknowledged as one of the worst on the roadway. In contrast the new section was constructed to full federal highway standards, with wide shoulders, rumble strips, good signage and emergency phones at regular intervals.
From milepost 35 to 44 the road passes the main gates of Pōhakuloa Training Area and Bradshaw Army Airfield before continuing across the military reservation. Military vehicles — including armored personnel carriers — occasionally cross or occupy the roadway. Artillery exercises, including live fire, are not uncommon with batteries set up along the roadway firing towards Mauna Loa. This section of the road has recently been repaved (summer 2008) greatly improvong the road conditions.
From milepost 44, near Kilohana, to the Māmalahoa Highway the road retains its original character, a narrow ribbon of poorly maintained pavement with crumbling edges. There are several more one lane bridges, blind curves and hills. It is common for drivers to negotiate the center of the road to avoid the rough shoulders, moving back into the lane only when necessary to pass traffic proceeding in the opposite direction. The route is quite scenic with views of the coastline, the Hualalai and Kohala Volcanoes, winding its way across Parker Ranch and through the development of Waiki'i.
Other realignment proposals include a section near Kaūmana Country Club Estates as well as one that would bypass Waiki‘i and connect to Māmalahoa Highway at either MILE 15 or at the mauka terminus of Waikōloa Road. Eventual plans are to complete a section past Mamalahoa Highway down to the coast and intersecting the Queen Ka‘ahumanu Highway to support cross island commuting by tourists and resort employees. The route for the entirely new sections of the highway are in some question as changes are needed in light of recent expansion of the military exercise areas. Completion of these projects represent a major realignment of island traffic patterns and conversion of this notorious roadway into a modern state highway.
|Ø||Hilo||Kamehameha Avenue / Bayfront Highway|
|6||Kaūmana Country Club Estates||||Pū‘āinakō Street Extension|
|27||*||Mauna Loa Observatory Road|
|28||*||Mauna Kea Summit Road|
|41||(201)||Saddle Road (proposed)|
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