Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023 |
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The proposed new Downtown Hilo roundabout. (Courtesy photo/PBR HAWAII)
Downtown Hilo will get a roundabout in 2027, according to a state plan published Tuesday.
The long-anticipated project would reconfigure the intersection between Bayfront Highway, Kamehameha Avenue and Waianuenue Avenue in an effort to mitigate traffic congestion at the northern entrance into town.
According to a draft environmental assessment published Tuesday, the project would create a roundabout with inbound and outbound lanes opening onto five roads: Waianuenue Avenue, eastbound Kamehameha Avenue, westbound Kamehameha Avenue, Bayfront Highway and Highway 19.
The plan states that the project is necessary to address increasing congestion at the intersection, particularly during those times when Bayfront Highway is closed due to flooding.
In addition to the roundabout, the project would also include additional pedestrian and cyclist safety features for the interchange. Those additions would help to fulfill the goals of the county’s Downtown Hilo Multimodal Master Plan, which calls for accommodations to improve the walkability of the downtown area.
“I know from experience that trying to walk across that intersection as a pedestrian is very unsafe,” said Councilwoman Jenn Kagiwada, whose district includes the project area.
The state Department of Transportation and the county have discussed improvements to the intersection for years. The Multimodal Master Plan, which was finalized in 2017, proposed several roundabouts for the area.
Kagiwada said the project initially could be disruptive, but will be beneficial in the long term.
“People had concerns about the Pahoa roundabout, but I think they have adjusted since then,” Kagiwada said. “It may be hard to adjust to at first, but I think it seems to be a better solution.”
Construction of the full project is anticipated to be conducted in five phases over roughly two years beginning in 2025.
The plan states that only two of the phases would necessitate traffic disruptions. One phase — the shortest phase, according to the assessment — would close the portion of Waianuenue Avenue between Kamehameha and Keawe Street, with traffic to be redirected through adjacent streets including Kamehameha, Wailuku Drive, Shipman Street and Kalakaua Street.
The other disruptive phase would close one lane on Highway 19 between the Wailuku River Bridge and the intersection, with traffic rerouted through Wainaku Street, the same detour implemented whenever work is done on the bridge.
However, DOT spokeswoman Shelly Kunishige noted that further details about the phases of the project and traffic control measures will be determined during negotiations with contractors closer to the project’s start date.
The assessment estimates the construction costs will be approximately $18.4 million, all of which will be borne by the state.
Kunishige said the state DOT has pursed grant funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation, but did not confirm whether that funding was approved.
The draft assessment anticipates no significant environmental impacts caused by the project. With the publication of the assessment, members of the public have until June 22 to provide feedback.
The assessment can be read at tinyurl.com/2xmcwscm. Comments can be submitted to email@example.com.
Email Michael Brestovansky at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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