The state Department of Transportation started the consultation process for future improvements to Highway 130.
Don Smith, DOT’s district engineer for Hawaii Island, said he wants the proposed projects from Shower Drive to Ainaloa Boulevard to be “shovel ready” should funding become available.
Due to lack of funding, the department is now seeking to add three roundabouts, a traffic signal and contraflow lanes, instead of additional widening.
Smith said the goal is to improve safety and efficiency rather than adding capacity through more lanes.
“It’s better for maintenance, it’s better for safety, and it actually allows us to use some access controls, which improve safety between the intersections,” he said regarding use of roundabouts.
For instance, a car exiting a driveway and needing to turn left on the highway could instead go right and turn around at the next roundabout. That prevents the driver from having to cross lanes of traffic.
The first of the three roundabouts likely would be built at the intersection of the highway and Ainaloa Boulevard, Smith said, though he couldn’t offer a timeline yet. He estimated that could cost $4 million to $5 million.
“My main plan right now is to get a project ready so if money becomes available that I can get it,” Smith said.
“Now, I’m hoping, I’m hoping to get some additional funding for a roundabout in Ainaloa this fiscal year or early next year.
“Having a shovel ready project is key to that.”
Smith was referring to fiscal years, which start in October.
Other roundabout locations would be at Orchidland and Makuu drives.
Smith said he plans to have the roundabout projects shovel ready by August. That includes completing National Historic Preservation Act consultation, which has started.
He said he still plans to introduce contraflow lanes this year. The project involves shifting lanes between Hilo- and Pahoa-bound directions during rush hour commutes.
That also will be followed by a new traffic signal at Kaloli Drive.
Smith said he won’t need to acquire land for the roundabouts, which would be smaller than the one installed in 2016 in Pahoa. The traffic circle has been credited with reducing collisions at the once deadly intersection.
Email Tom Callis at email@example.com.