The Reason Right Hand Turn Lane Was Removed From Kilauea Street

Some time in the last few weeks, the County of Hawaii Department of Public Works decided to remove the right hand turn lane at the south end of Kilauea Street where folks use to be able to turn on to Haihai Street.

A few folks have sent me emails asking me to inquire about things and finally I put it out there the other night that I would be inquiring about this change in traffic pattern.

Former Kona Blogger Aaron Stene saw what I posted and was able to inquire with the County of Hawaii Department of Public Works as to why this change happened and he sent me the conversation between two folks in the county who knew what happened and WHY it happened.

Some time ago we got a request from then Councilman, Dennis Onishi.  The request was for a convex mirror for the Kilauea Ave/Haihai St. intersection because people had a hard time seeing turning out onto Kilauea Ave from Haihai St.

After investigating the intersection we concluded that a mirror would be ineffective at improving sight distance, particularly at the higher speeds that cars commonly drive in this area.  The problem we identified was that cars in the right turn lane restricted line of sight.  We proposed to Dennis the idea of terminating the right turn lane and merging traffic into one lane.  Our thinking was that not having the right turn lane would allow turning vehicles to have better visibility of oncoming traffic and turning vehicles would actually be able to pull out a little more to make turns.  Dennis supported our plan so we proceeded to make the change.

The one concern that I have is that driver habits in this area hamper the flow of traffic at this intersection.  Although the yield is for Hilo bound traffic, cars still tend to yield on the Puna bound side.  When this occurs, the Puna bound backup increases because the lane now consists of both right turning vehicles and through vehicles.

Our treatment is not the perfect solution, but the positive impacts of the change should be appreciated by those making turns from Haihai St, as opposed to those on Kilauea Ave.  I heard there are plans to widen the “4 Mile” bridge in a few years.  I think converting the bridge to a two-lane bridge will greatly improve traffic flow in this area.  Speeds will probably go up, but the congestion will be reduced significantly.  The other improvement that may not be possible due to lack of space is a left turn lane on Kilauea Ave for the Haihai St intersection.  Another cause for congestion is people making left turns.

Aaron Takaba

 

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