KAILUA-KONA — Stop no more.
State Department of Transportation crews are installing no parking signs and moving in concrete barriers to keep motorists from stopping on the side of Queen Kaahumanu Highway to check out the Huehue lava tube in North Kona.
The lava tube, created during the 1801 Huehue flow from Hualalai’s northwest flank, is located about 2 miles north of Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole, and attracts visitors and residents alike curious as to what is within. Promotion for the lave tube is easily found online and in travel books, and it’s more than visible from the roadway.
Crews began installing no parking signs on both sides of the highway on Jan. 7 and will be placing concrete (Jersey) barriers on the mauka side of the roadway in the coming weeks, said Shelly Kunishige, a spokeswoman with the state Department of Transportation. A no-trespassing sign will also be posted at the tube’s entrance.
The no parking signs are positioned along 1,000 feet of shoulder on the mauka side of the highway where the main entry to the lava tube is located. On the makai side of the highway, no parking signs will placed along 600 feet of shoulder.
The concrete barriers will be positioned along 1,000 feet of shoulder on the mauka side of the highway to deter parking along the highway to check out the geological feature.
“This is in response to concerns over the activities taking place in the area and the damage the unintended parking has caused to the highway shoulder,” Kunishige said.
During the work, lane closures may be required. Work will not take place on Monday because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, but is planned Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Regarding enforcement, Kunishige said the appropriate parties have been consulted.
“We have discussed enforcement of the no parking and no trespassing restrictions with HPD,” she said.
The move follows an August 2018 article published by West Hawaii Today highlighting safety concerns at the popular site near mile marker 91.
State transportation officials said they were unaware of the issue until being contacted by the newspaper about safety concerns there. Depending on the time of day, the number of vehicles at the site has reached several dozen, with cars parked on both sides of the highway and people illegally crossing in the 55-mph zone.
At the time, a state spokesperson said the department would investigate the issue, adding signage would be considered should findings show stopping and parking along the mauka and makai side of the highway presented a danger to highway users.
Kunishige said anyone with concerns about the restrictions should contact the department’s public affairs office by calling at (808) 587-2160 or emailing DOTPAO@hawaii.gov.