Sunday, March 03, 2024|
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Workers cover the holes made while installing gas lines Thursday on Keawe Street in Hilo.
Curtis Engbring poses for a portrait inside Puna Chocolate Company on Thursday while construction is ongoing on Keawe Street in Hilo.
Construction on Keawe Street in downtown Hilo will be ongoing until April 2024.
Hawaii County crews are upgrading the gas, sewer and water infrastructure along Keawe, and the work is requiring the closure of parking spaces and traffic lanes from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on weekdays.
Originally, the Department of Public Works announced that all the work would be done at night. Work began May 1, and construction switched to a daytime schedule by June 5.
“The Community Noise Variance from the county Department of Health was amended to include specific heavy equipment machines,” said Sherise Kanae-Kane, DPS spokeswoman. “Once the amended Community Noise Variance is received, the majority of project work is expected to move to nighttime.”
Some portions of Keawe are closed depending on where the work is taking place. Last week, crews were working on Keawe between Haili Street and Furneaux Lane, which disrupted regular operations at some businesses along the corridor.
On Thursday, work was ongoing right in front of Puna Chocolate Company, which is located on the corner of Furneaux and Keawe.
“I’ve noticed a decrease in profits the past two days since construction has been at our front door. We also had to cut our midshift entirely,” said Curtis Engbring, general manager of Puna Chocolate Company. “Visitors from the cruise ships or people from the farmers market that would normally come to Keawe businesses decide to stay away when they see the roads torn up or sidewalks closed.”
Engbring thinks that moving the work to nighttime would help business overall, depending on when the construction would start. He also wishes there was a more specific plan to help businesses work around the construction.
“We get flyers from the county, but they aren’t very specific. But I’m sure it’s hard to nail down for them, as well,” Engbring said. “It’s great that they are bringing gas lines through here, but it is a pain knowing how much longer it will take. It makes me wonder what level of construction will need to be done for that long and the overall benefit.”
Engbring said that if work remains as heavy as it is now, it will not be sustainable for many businesses along Keawe.
Bruce Crawford, owner of Blue Hawaii Antiques, said he has received absolutely no business since crews have been on the stretch of Keawe between Haili and Furneaux. The noise has caused him to close his normally open door, which has been bad for business.
Crawford mentioned that night work would help, but it also would disrupt the sleep of the many people who live in lofts on Keawe.
According to employees at Slow Your Roll, the construction has been detrimental to their business, and if it keeps on going during the day, they may suffer.
While the noise hasn’t affected Slow Your Roll as much as some other businesses, many customers have called to make sure it is open or to even ask where to park and how to get there past the construction.
According to Kanae-Kane, lane closures and parking restrictions can be expected until the project is completed in April.
“The overall goal of the project is to reconstruct the roadway and sidewalks to meet current standards and reduce the rate of future deterioration,” Kanae-Kane said. “Upgrades to gas, sewer and water utilities have also been included with the road rehabilitation project.”
Many business owners downtown understand the benefits of the construction, but wish there was a way to expedite the process.
“I definitely understand why this has to be done, and I’m grateful for it,” Crawford said. “I just wish there was a way for work to be completed quicker or at a better time for everyone.”
The rehabilitation project is slated to cost $15.3 million, with 80% federal funds and 20% coming from the county.
Email Kelsey Walling at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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