Highway 130 Shoulder Conversion Project – Clarifications

I posted the following comment on the Facebook group “Bike Commuter of Hilo“:

As a former member of the Keaau Pahoa Advisory Group (KPAG) on Highway 130… I can tell folks that the last drawing I saw on this Highway widening plan that is starting now is supposed to have a Bike lane.

Whether it will have one or not is yet to be seen. I don’t have much confidence that the State really listened to us KPAG Members to well as they are installing the Pahoa Round-a-bout at a location we didn’t want!

The intent of the project is to improve safety and traffic flow by converting the existing T-intersection into a single-lane modern roundabout. Construction work time is estimated at approximately 12 months.

The intent of the project is to improve safety and traffic flow by converting the existing T-intersection into a single-lane modern roundabout. Construction work time is estimated at approximately 12 months.

Doug Zang (not speaking on behalf of the DOT or SSFM) weighed in on my comment and stated the following:

Damon, some clarification is needed. As you know, I was actively involved in that project as well. The DOT has a very complicated and confusing way of implementing and funding the projects along that road, and given how long things take, I can understand the confusion.

The project that is being started this week is the “Shoulder Conversion Project.” It is NOT the same thing as the project you were involved with as a KPAG member. Yes, same highway. Yes, construction. NOT the same project.

The Shoulder Conversion Project is a short-term modification to ONLY the segment of highway between the Humane Society and Shower Drive. The only thing it will do is improve the shoulder on the mauka side of the highway so that people can drive on the mauka shoulder during the PM rush hour much as they drive on the makai shoulder during the AM rush hour today. All other hours of the day, the highway will STILL be only 2 lanes wide, and motorists will NOT be using the shoulder.

In essence, HDOT needs to widen the Waipahoehoe Bridge so that the shoulder extends at a full width across that bridge. (That is the reason the shoulder is not already being used today for that purpose in the afternoon.) So you can think of this as strictly a short-term fix until the full widening of the highway, all the way from Keaau to Pahoa, takes place.

HDOT did a *totally separate* environmental assessment for that shoulder conversion project, and it was always on a timeline ahead of the long-term widening of the highway (which is what you and I were both involved with, and the different environmental assessment that I wrote). The reason for this has to do with getting available funding. It was easier for HDOT to get funding for the shoulder conversion and make things somewhat better in the short-term. KPAG *was* told about that project, repeatedly, and told that THAT project was on a faster timeline than ours. You may not have been around for that discussion as I recall you were not present for probably the last three KPAG meetings.

In the long term, the project that both you and I were involved with WILL INDEED be wider (4 lanes, not two) and have shoulders that WILL serve bicyclists and pedestrians. THAT project, by the way, is still being designed, so it is some time off in the future before that design gets finalized and constructed.

The contact over at the HDOT office in Hilo that is involved with the Shoulder Conversion is named Julann Sonomura. If you call her (feel free to tell her I referred you) she can explain all this to you in greater detail.

Sorry for the novel, everyone, but I felt this needs to be made clear so the public understands. From the standpoint of bicyclists in East Hawaii, the Shoulder Conversion is good news but also not-so-good news. During the PM rush hour, the shoulder heading towards Pahoa will be filled with cars (much as it is in the AM heading the other way), so it will not be a place bicyclists want to be. All the OTHER hours of the day, the shoulder will be much better than now.

One Response

  1. Aloha Damon
    Though I am sure that the State Employees and engineers you are dealing with are honorable and just doing what they are told, this is a brief microcosm of the corruption that underlies all things in Hawaii. The one lane traffic circle was designed to fail.

    Your nature desire to have a lane safe for bicyclists to use is natural. Hawaii has one on the highest death rates for bicyclists and pedestrians.

    The failure to address this problem is masked by the breaking down into small parts of what should be a unified project allowing people like you to be fooled by the dog and pony shows put on by DOT and County officials. Nobody can be directly blamed for the injuries and pedestrian deaths because “that wasn’t part of this project”. If we contracted out the whole planning, engineering and construction of road solutions for Puna Makai, it would be safer, cheaper and realistic in its scope. Insead, we have small projects where no planning is done, where nobody is held accountable for bad or unsafe design. THis way only local contractors will bid, and larger contractors from elsewhere are frozen out. The jobs are never done and provide steady jobs to contractors.

    As far as the traffic circle in Pahoa, ane lane is totally inadequate by all modern engineering standards for a complex intersection with the enormous traffic count there. This is particularly true given the pending approval of another shopping center at the Bryson property adjacent to this intersection contributing to an even greater traffic count. Because it will be unsafe, there will be accidents and deaths roving that we can’t use traffic circles. Thus we can’t use traffic circles ever again.

    No other options are possible because Shipman cannot be inconvenienced or have land condemned for a PMAR. All roads must lead to the imaginary Gateway shopping center in Keaau that Shipman demands Puna residents to use. Never mind the population in Keaau is miniscule. They put the schools there away from Puna’s population centers and we must continue to go down the down that Shipman dictates.

    Your attempt to improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians looks like it was unsatisfying and would tend to discourage you and others with your experiences to steer clear of this sham process in the future. This allows more decisions to be made in private once members of the public are driven away.

    By the way, Shipman, its employees and others in the construction businesses donate heavily to the people that maintain this system of corruption and death for pedestrians. It has proven very profitable for them in the past and will continue to be a good investment for them.
    a hui hou
    Bob Jacobson, retire Hawaii County Councilmember, Puna/Kau/South Kona

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