Traffic shift ahead

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KAILUA-KONA — Traffic along a portion of Queen Kaahumanu Highway will transition to the newly paved makai section Wednesday night as part of the ongoing widening project.

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KAILUA-KONA — Traffic along a portion of Queen Kaahumanu Highway will transition to the newly paved makai section Wednesday night as part of the ongoing widening project.

Transition efforts will begin at 9 p.m. on Wednesday and continue through Thursday morning, according to the Department of Transportation.

Some traffic delays should be expected along the highway and side streets during the transition and, once complete, the mauka highway from Keahole Airport Road to Hulikoa Drive will be closed to public traffic.

Once traffic is shifted, it’s going to have a big effect on access to Makako Bay Drive and the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority. Department of Transportation spokeswoman Shelly Kunishige said left turns from the northbound lanes of Queen Kaahumanu Highway onto Makako Bay Drive “will be restricted for the foreseeable future.”

Northbound drivers will instead be able to access Makako Bay Drive by continuing on to the highway’s signalized intersection at Kaiminani Drive, where they can turn around to head southbound along the highway to make a right turn at Makako Bay Drive.

Likewise, Kunishige said, motorists will be able to access the highway’s northbound lanes from Makako Bay Drive by traveling south along the highway to Hulikoa Drive, where they can turn around to head northbound.

NELHA, meanwhile, expects its extension of Kahilihili Street to Kaiminani Drive to be open and ready for traffic on Tuesday, Sept. 5.

That project, which kicked off construction last November, extended Kaiminani Drive makai of the highway and extended Kahilihili Street, connecting Makako Bay Drive and Kaiminani Drive.

“We have been coordinating closely with (the Department of Transportation) and it’s great that they are ahead of schedule,” said NELHA Executive Director Gregory Barbour. “And we strongly support the progress that DOT has made on the highway in the past year. It will eventually provide for safer and faster commutes in West Hawaii.”

Barbour said that, in light of the traffic shift, they had asked Isemoto Construction Co., the construction firm on the project, if they’d be able to speed up final work on the road to provide access to NELHA at the intersection of Kaiminani Drive and Queen Kaahumanu Highway as soon as possible.

That means northbound drivers will be able to access NELHA by turning left at the intersection of the highway and Kaiminani Drive and then taking Kahilihili Street south to Makako Bay Drive. Motorists can leave by going north on Kahilihili Street and then making a left at the Kaiminani Drive intersection.

A road opening and blessing ceremony is scheduled for the morning of Sept. 5

“I just can’t say enough good things about Isemoto Construction,” said Barbour. “We will be finishing this project well ahead of schedule and the road looks fantastic!”

Phase two of the Queen Kaahumanu Highway Widening Project originally broke ground in September 2015 and will widen Highway 19 from two to four lanes between Kealakehe Parkway and Keahole Airport Road, as well as install new lights and signals in the area.

The first phase, which finished in 2007, widened the highway from Henry Street to Kealakehe Parkway.

Since the second phase of the project broke ground, costs have risen from an initial projected cost of $90 million to $105 million.

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Kunishige said the cost increased because of the reopening of a consultation process regarding the effect of federally funded projects on historic properties. The increase was also attributed to a redesign intended to minimize impacts and avoid sites, survey work and project modifications.

The widening project is expected to be substantially completed by August 2018.

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