Can’t drive 55 — Pahoa speed limit to drop to 45 mph


HILO — For those with a need for speed, here’s some disappointing news.

Beginning the first week of May, the state Department of Transportation will begin putting the brakes on Highway 130 traffic by designating a new 45 mph zone along Hawaiian Paradise Park and Orchidland Estates.

The change, impacting the Keaau-Pahoa Road from Shower Drive to Ainaloa Boulevard, is intended to improve vehicle safety on the congested route, already one of the most dangerous in Hawaii.

“Obviously, safety is our No. 1 concern,” said Caroline Sluyter, DOT spokeswoman. “That would be the reason to reduce the speed.”

The two subdivisions are hosts to numerous driveways and uncontrolled turnoffs, heightening the risk of collisions.

That area is currently part of a 55 mph speed zone that stretches approximately from the Keaau transfer station road to the Pahoa police station.

State Sen. Russell Ruderman recommended the change in a letter to DOT Director Glenn Okimoto in January.

In an email to the Tribune-Herald, Ruderman, D-Puna, noted the need for greater traffic safety in his district.

“Over 100 roads and driveways connect to this stretch of Highway 130 with limited merge lanes and no stop lights,” he said.

“We felt that this speed limit reduction has the most immediate impact on the safety of our community and can be implemented with minimal expense.”

Ruderman had also requested the speed limit be lowered near Leilani Avenue.

In his response, Okimoto said that couldn’t be justified based on the area’s collision rate.

But he suggested DOT may still put up a sign recommending that drivers slow down.

“Instead, we recommend using an advisory speed limit of 45 mph to warn drivers of the intersection,” Okimoto said.

DOT ranked three intersections on Keaau-Pahoa Road — Ainaloa Boulevard, Kahakai Boulevard and Old Pahoa Road —as being among the most dangerous in the state in 2011.

The Kahakai Boulevard and Old Pahoa Road intersections are both already in 45 mph zones.

In terms of congestion, the stretch from Shower Drive to Ainaloa Boulevard had grades of between C and F in 2006, depending on the direction of traffic and time of day.