Improvements ongoing at two Hilo schools

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Cars wait in line Tuesday in one-lane traffic as county workers replace a water meter in front of Waiakea Elementary School.

As students enjoy fall break, construction crews are working to create new parking areas at two Hilo schools to address traffic concerns on Puainako Street.

While site-preparation work is nearly complete at Waiakea Elementary School and Waiakea Intermediate School, the bulk of the construction has been scheduled for this week in conjunction with the break.

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The rain, however, has slowed down construction of the new parking areas at each school and a new drive-thru apron for WES.

“The weather has slowed down work a little bit, but they are still moving material to the school and basically doing all they can,” said Council Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy. “The crew will need at least a day or two of nice, dry, sunny weather before they can pave and compact the materials for the parking lots.”

The project has five areas of focus. It will create two new parking areas — one at WES and one at WIS; two areas of modest widening and reinforcement along a loop road on the WIS campus; and one new drive-thru approach apron at the WES campus.

At WES, new signage and traffic-flow patterns will be adjusted to direct cars into the existing teacher parking area and coil back to the newly created drive-thru apron for student drop-off and pick-up.

If the weather stays dry for a day or so, crews will be able to pave over a portion of the grass at WES for the new drive-thru apron, which will open up traffic significantly.

“There is really one portion that needs to be done to help with traffic flow,” Lee Loy said. “The new traffic pattern for the elementary school could pull at least 25 cars off Puainako in the mornings and afternoons.”

To minimize impact to students, crews have been working on weekends and after school hours to complete the site-prep work.

After the project is complete, the state Department of Transportation will assess traffic in the area and see how the improvements are working.

“Since the Kolekole Bridge weight limit as been minimized, trucks are using Puainako more to access (the Daniel K. Inouye Highway), which has caused increased traffic as well,” Lee Loy said. “Hopefully, by the end of the year we can assess information and data collected by the DOT to see what else can be done not only for these two schools, but the whole area.”

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In a press release, Lee Loy expressed her gratitude to DOT Deputy Director Ed Sniffen, Hawaii District Engineers Harry Takiue and Rob Lee, Hawaii County, and Matt Weller at Operating Engineers Local 3 for helping transform a sketch on Google Maps into a solution for the community.

Email Kelsey Walling at kwalling@hawaiitribune-herald.com

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