Paniolo Avenue intersection improvements coming

  • The intersection of Waikoloa Road and Paniolo Avenue will be getting a $5.5 million upgrade, thanks to action taken by the County Council last week. (Photos by Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • The intersection of Waikoloa Rd. and Paniolo Ave. will be getting a $5.5 million upgrade, thanks to action taken by the County Council last week. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • The intersection of Waikoloa Road and Paniolo Avenue will be getting a $5.5 million upgrade, thanks to action taken by the County Council last week. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • The intersection of Waikoloa Rd. and Paniolo Ave. will be getting a $5.5 million upgrade, thanks to action taken by the County Council last week. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • The intersection of Waikoloa Rd. and Paniolo Ave. will be getting a $5.5 million upgrade, thanks to action taken by the County Council last week. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

A worrisome Waikoloa intersection will be getting a $5.5 million upgrade, thanks to action taken by the County Council last week.

The council moved the money into the capital budget so work on the intersection of Paniolo Avenue and Waikoloa Road can commence this year. But first will come community meetings and a design.

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“This is a primary concern for the greater Waikoloa community and this will be addressing that,” said Kohala Councilman Tim Richards. “We will be starting with community meetings … and we will get some input and we will get the planners, the engineers and the traffic engineers to figure out what’s best for the community.”

Waikoloa Road is heavily traveled by cross-island commuters, particularly those heading to the South Kohala resort area via Saddle Road. In addition, Waikoloa Road is the main route for truckers heading cross island back from West Hawaii, unless they are coming from Waimea or head mauka out of Kona via Mamalahoa directly to Saddle Road.

Further, with the county trucking the trash now, there are even more large vehicles coming down that roadway. Until Daniel K. Inouye Highway is extended to Queen Kaahumanu Highway from its current terminus at Mamalahoa Highway, Waikoloa Road will remain a heavily traveled route.

The Department of Public Works estimates the design phase will cost $500,000 and the construction phase $5 million. A timeline has not yet been set. But staff is available to manage the project, according to a DPW report noting project readiness.

“Meetings have not been finalized yet, but we’re working on this now,” Richards’ council aide Amy Seeley said Monday.

A DPW spokeswoman said the meetings will occur closer to the project onset.

“While Bill 124 was passed, it was done so to create a funding mechanism to receive monies in the future once the project has been approved,” spokeswoman Denise Laitinen said. “Currently, the Paniolo Avenue Rehabilitation project remains one of many roadwork projects that DPW identified and prepared to initiate project development activities for needed roadway rehabilitation work. Community meeting scheduling will be considered at the appropriate project development milestones.”

The county has more money for roadway and mass transit projects, thanks to a half-cent on the dollar local surcharge to the state general excise tax.

Richards said the project is 10 years in the making.

It can’t happen soon enough for Waikoloa residents, 35 of whom submitted written testimony urging the council to move forward.

“Our town needs a proper safe intersection, especially with the shopping plaza going in. It is unsafe the way it is and confusing as a two way stop,” said Karen Altergott in testimony. “Paniolo Drive needs to be repaved and more pedestrian crosswalks need to be established.”

Altergott noted there are three pedestrian crosswalks along the two-mile stretch: one by Lua Kula Street, one in front of the Baptist Church and one in front of the school. She said it’s a busy area for pedestrians because of the school and people out exercising.

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Waikoloa Village resident Peter Haynes sees the intersection as a priority.

“This intersection is problematic, particularly during high tourist season,” Haynes said in testimony. “This intersection is used by pedestrians, cyclists, cars, trucks, heavy trucks and military vehicles. Not all of these respect the posted speed limits or obey the right of way protocols.”

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