Wednesday | December 07, 2016
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A Bridge Not Too Far

A North Hawaii bridge and intersection will get a makeover, under a Department of Transportation proposal that got the environmental go-ahead this week.

The DOT wants to replace the Waiaka Stream Bridge with a 53-foot-wide, 80-foot-long, two-lane bridge, with a combined shoulder and bike lane and a raised sidewalk. Construction would also realign approaches to the bridge to reconfigure the Kawaihae Road intersection with Kohala Mountain Road. The plans call for a T-intersection with a traffic signal, the final environmental assessment said.

This week’s Environmental Notice, from the Department of Health’s Office of Environmental Quality Control, said the DOT gave the project a finding of no significant impact following the environmental assessment process.

DOT officials said they anticipate using some U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration funds for the project, as well as state funds to cover the estimated $12 million project cost. DOT officials want to begin work in 2015 and complete construction in 2016.

Members of the South Kohala Traffic Safety Committee last year wrote to the DOT in favor of another alternative, which would have created a roundabout at the intersection.

“The community is concerned about maintaining traffic flow during peak traffic hours and also maintaining compliance with the posted 25 MPH speed limit during off peak hours,” Committee Chairman Mike Price wrote in in August 2011. “The roundabout improves traffic flow reducing delays during peak traffic hours and is also a traffic calming tool during off peak traffic hours.”

A signalized intersection is inconsistent with the South Kohala Community Development Plan’s stated goals of maintaining Waimea’s rural character, Price added.

Other community members, and the Police Department, submitted comments supporting the traffic signal.

“Please do not install a roundabout,” Waimea resident Julia Simmons wrote. “They are dangerous and take up too much space. … A light would also help to slow traffic down through the residential area on Kawaihae Road below the bridge.”

State officials said the bridge needs to be replaced because of structural deficiencies, according to the final environmental assessment.

During construction, drivers will use a temporary bypass bridge to go around the work site, officials said. The preferred alternative would permanently shift the intersection alignment to the south of the existing location.

The DOT has been planning bridge and intersection improvements since 2002.