DOT proposing roundabout for dangerous Waimea intersection, other improvements

  • A vehicle turns off Lindsey Road onto Kawaihae Road Thursday evening in Waimea. The state Department of Transportation is moving forward with plans to improve safety and relieve congestion within Waimea with the Monday release of a draft environmental assessment for the project. Among the proposals is adding a roundabout at the intersection. (Chelsea Jensen/West Hawaii Today)

  • Vehicles navigate the intersection of Mamalahoa Highway and Lindsey Road in Waimea shortly before 5 p.m. Thursday. The state Department of Transportation is moving forward with plans to improve safety and relieve congestion within Waimea with the Monday release of a draft environmental assessment for the project. (Chelsea Jensen/West Hawaii Today)

  • A Hele-On bus cruises through the intersection of Mamalahoa Highway and Lindsey Road in Waimea shortly before 5 p.m. Thursday. (Chelsea Jensen/West Hawaii Today)

  • Vehicles navigate the intersection of Mamalahoa Highway and Lindsey Road in Waimea shortly before 5 p.m. Thursday. The state Department of Transportation is moving forward with plans to improve safety and relieve congestion within Waimea with the Monday release of a draft environmental assessment for the project. (Chelsea Jensen/West Hawaii Today)

The state Department of Transportation is moving forward with plans to improve safety and relieve congestion within Waimea.

The proposed project would include several multimodal safety and operations improvements to existing roadways on the Kona side of the South Kohala town designed to save lives and alleviate traffic backups. The proposed improvements and a draft environmental assessment for the project follow the completion of the Waimea Regional Safety Study in 2019.

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There were 60 accidents within the study area in the five-year period from 2012 through 2016, according to the latest data available from the DOT. One crash involved a pedestrian, and three crashes involved other types of vehicles. While there were no fatalities, 34 people suffered injuries. Seven of the crashes occurred at the intersection of Lindsey and Kawaihae Roads, which the state identified as a collision “hot spot.”

That intersection would be addressed by installing a roundabout where Kawaihae and Lindsey roads meet. The roundabout would have a 125-foot inscribed circle and would include sidewalks, bikeways, and crosswalks. That improvement alone is expected to cost $9.5 million, not including land acquisition costs.

The state is also looking at improving the Mamalahoa Highway and Lindsey Road intersection as well as establishing restricted left turns along Mamalahoa Highway between Lindsey and Pukalani roads.

The addition of bicycle and pedestrians lanes along both sides of Kawaihae Road, between Lindsey and Opelo roads, and Mamalahoa Highway, between Waimea School and Lindsey Road and restriping to create a shared shoulder and bike lane between Waimea School and Kaomoloa Road are also part of the proposal.

Depending on funding availability, the project may be constructed in phases. Funding is likely to be derived from Hawaii County, which approved a general excise tax increase of 0.5% dedicated to transit, as well as from the state’s vehicle rental surcharge tax assessed to fund highway capacity and congestion projects.

If funding can be secured, construction could begin in 2022.

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The state Department of Transportation expects a finding of no significant environmental impact, consultant SSFM International said in the draft EA published Monday.

Comments are due by April 7 to the proposing/determining agency and with a copy sent to the consultant. To find the draft EA for the “Waimea Roadway Improvements Project,” check out the latest edition of The Environmental Notice put out by the Office of Environmental Quality Control at http://oeqc2.doh.hawaii.gov/The_Environmental_Notice/2021-03-08-TEN.pdf.

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