Saddle Road alternatives: Paniolo Avenue resurfacing to commence Oct. 1, intersection study underway

  • Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today file photo The intersection of Waikoloa Road and Paniolo Avenue in Waikoloa will be getting a $5.5 million upgrade.

Progress is continuing on alternative roadways in Kohala, with schedules even more important since the state’s announcement earlier this month that the $80 million West Hawaii extension of Daniel K. Inouye Highway has been put on hold.

That project seeks to extend the cross-island route, known colloquially as Saddle Road, from its current terminus at Mamalahoa Highway near the South Kohala-North Kona boundary to Queen Kaahumanu Highway. The approximately 10.5-mile extension was expected to take about two years to construct once work is underway.

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Waikoloa Road is heavily traveled by cross-island commuters, particularly those heading to the South Kohala resort area via Saddle Road. In addition, Waikoloa Road is the main route for truckers heading cross island back from West Hawaii, unless they are coming from Waimea or head mauka out of Kona via Mamalahoa directly to Saddle Road.

Further, with the county trucking the trash now, there are even more large vehicles coming down that roadway. Until Saddle Road is extended to Queen Kaahumanu Highway from its current terminus at Mamalahoa Highway, Waikoloa Road will remain a heavily traveled route.

“I’ve discussed this with the state Department of Transportation, and am seeing if we can get the Waikoloa Road resurfacing under the STIP (Statewide Transportation Improvement Program) moved up since that traffic load will continue on the road, and it is in serious need of repair,” said Kohala Councilman Tim Richards.

Waikoloa Road Rehabilitation project is a shovel-ready project waiting for funding from the Federal Highway Fund. The county Department of Public Works estimates the design phase will cost $500,000 and the construction phase $5 million.

A $5.5 million upgrade for the intersection of Waikoloa Road and Paniolo Avenue, along with repaving Paniolo Avenue, meanwhile, is moving forward.

The Department of Public Works Highway Maintenance Division is preparing to pave Paniolo Avenue in the fourth quarter of 2021, said DPW spokeswoman Sherise Kanae-Kane. Consultant Belt Collins has been contracted to complete a traffic impact analysis report with a completion date in November. The report will help DPW determine whether a roundabout or traffic lights will be installed at the Paniolo Avenue intersection.

“A community meeting will be scheduled after the TIAR report is completed,” said Kanae-Kane. “DPW will report the results and obtain feedback from the community.”

Richards is closely following the project.

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“The work to resurface Paniolo Drive and deal with some of the safety concerns is scheduled to start approximately Oct. 1,” Richards said. “Though it is scheduled to go just from the intersection to Hulu Street, we’re working to see if we can have that work go further.”

Email Nancy Cook Lauer at ncook-lauer@westhawaiitoday.com.

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