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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.