Contraflow lane project in Puna set for Aug. 26

  • A section of the Keaau-Pahoa Road contraflow plan at Shower Drive.

The state Department of Transportation will reconfigure a stretch of Highway 130 to add a new northbound lane during morning rush hour on Monday, Aug. 26.

The project will establish a contraflow lane — wherein traffic will flow in the opposite direction from normal — on Highway 130’s central lane between Shower Drive and Kaloli Drive. While the central lane is striped for southbound traffic, it will instead be used by northbound traffic from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. on weekdays.

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The contraflow lane is intended to improve traffic from Pahoa to Hilo during the morning rush hour; a statement from DOT earlier this month indicated that a contraflow test in 2018 showed a time savings of 15 minutes for northbound traffic.

A restriping project in preparation for the contraflow resulted in significant traffic delays on Highway 130 last week. Many identified a significant cause of the traffic snarl as the removal of a right-turn lane onto Highway 130 from Shower Drive, as well as a lack of notice from DOT about the project.

“HDOT apologizes for not providing prior notice to the community of the restriping on Keaau-Pahoa Road on August 8,” read a statement from DOT on Thursday. “As a result of the congestion and its effects on thousands of motorists, HDOT is retaining the dedicated right turn from Shower Drive onto northbound Keaau-Pahoa Road until the setup for the contraflow is completed.”

However, DOT will remove the right turn lane from Shower Drive after the contraflow is established, and drivers who do not live in Hawaiian Paradise Park are encouraged to avoid Shower Drive.

“HDOT believes that a large part of the increased volumes on Shower Drive during the morning rush is due to motorists from outside the subdivision cutting through Hawaiian Paradise Park to avoid congestion on Keaau-Pahoa Road,” read the statement. “The counts show traffic counts on Keaau-Pahoa Road declining from a high of 843 to 411 between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. due to vehicles coming to a standstill on the mainline when traffic volumes are higher coming from Shower Drive than on the mainline.”

The daily bidirectional traffic volume of Highway 130 is, on average, 22,779, while the daily volume on Shower drive is approximately 2,000.

Puna councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz said she has requested Ed Sniffen, DOT’s deputy director for highways, to discuss the project with the Hawaii County Council and clarify its purpose.

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“There needs to be clarity for these things,” Kierkiewicz said. “We need to shore up our communication between the county and DOT.”

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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