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Alii Drive widening expected to slow traffic

May 12, 2014 - 6:22am

Work on Alii Drive will likely slow down traffic on the busy thoroughfare for about three months, the final environmental assessment for the project says.

The $250,000 project will widen the shoulders on a 350-foot-long stretch of the road between the Kona Islander Inn and the Kona Alii Condominiums. The work will create a consistent, five-foot-wide shoulder on the road’s mauka side. Public Works Director Warren Lee issued the finding of no significant impact this month.

“Currently, pedestrians walk in an area that provides inadequate separation from the motor vehicle lane,” the final environmental assessment said.

Workers will direct traffic during single-lane closures, which will last about three months, the assessment said, although that estimate is for the “maximum time” for the work, which could be done “considerably sooner,” the consultant wrote. Construction will be confined to daytime hours and contractors will not have a staging area for the project, instead mobilizing and demobilizing daily.

Debbie Baker, executive director of the Kailua Village Business Improvement District, suggested county officials might want to take advantage of the traffic delays by using the time period as a test for proposed one-way traffic patterns in the village.

“DPW has heard from several businesses concerned about traffic congestion, volumes, patterns and detours,” consultant Ron Terry of Geometrician Associates wrote. “DPW will evaluate the effectiveness of this pattern in reducing congestion and effects to business and switch to one-way traffic if advisable, informed by the feedback of the public. If necessary, several detour options will be considered and one or more of them will be implemented.”

At least one business owner wrote with concerns about the economic impact the work could have on his coffee shop.

Bruce Cadwell, owner of Java on the Rock, said that during the lane closures and subsequent detour during construction in front of St. Michael the Archangel Church a few months ago, his business dropped 30 to 35 percent.

“There was no attempt made to inform drivers at the Lunapule detour that Alii Drive was open for local business,” Cadwell wrote in a letter addressed to Mayor Billy Kenoi. “The access and exposure that Alii Drive provides to my existing and potential customers is crucial to the survival and existence of Java on the Rock. A three-month lane closure will require me to take extreme action to survive. … Please make it a priority to mitigate the loss of income to the employees and businesses on Alii Drive while this sidewalk is being built.”

He was particularly concerned about detours that routed traffic away from Alii Drive. Terry said the department did not plan to implement any such detour, at least not at first.

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