New light snarls traffic: DOT says timing will undergo adjustments

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald A line of cars heading south wait at the new stoplight at Mamalahoa Highway and E. Kipimana Street on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020.

The state Department of Transportation is fine-tuning the timing of some traffic lights in East Hawaii.

A new traffic light located at the intersection of Highway 11 and Kipimana Street — the entrance to Shipman Business Park — began normal operation on Monday morning, but traffic was snarled along the highway that afternoon.

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Traffic was backed up again on Tuesday and Wednesday.

DOT spokeswoman Shelly Kunishige, however, said heavy rains and a three-car collision were the most likely causes of the traffic Monday afternoon.

Kunishige said the department is using camera detection technology at the “continuous green T” intersection.

“After it was activated on Monday, Oct. 26, it was noted that the detector alerting the signal to the presence of vehicles waiting on Kipimana Street was set to default timing,” she explained. “This was changed Monday night to detection.”

Although the new light is outside of her district, Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy said Tuesday that she’s been tracking the project with the state DOT and through the County Council’s own public works committee.

“I think like anything, there’s a need for people to get used to something new,” she said. “That weather and that traffic accident didn’t help. It was the first day.”

Going forward, Kunishige said the DOT has partnered with Elemental Excelerator to install vehicle sensors that can alert staff to unusual delays on portions of Highway 11 and Highway 130.

The DOT said Wednesday that 16 vehicle sensors were installed on state-owned traffic signals on Highway 11 between Kamehameha Avenue and Hunia Road, and Highway 130, between Milo Street and Shower Drive.

According to the department, the sensors calculate travel times between the units by anonymously collecting data from Bluetooth-enabled devices in passing vehicles.

Data will be used to optimize traffic signal timing.

Traffic data for the two highways can be found online at bit.ly/HIDOTtraffic.

The dashboard also allows people to look at speeds along the corridor and current delays.

The DOT said installation of vehicle sensors on the remaining 14 state-owned traffic signals in West Hawaii is anticipated to be finished in late November.

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The total cost for the installations is $57,700.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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