Video by David Corrigan | Voice of Stephanie Salazar
The final Environmental Assessment for the Keaau-Pahoa Road Improvement Project was presented to the Puna community on Monday evening.
The Highway 130 Keaau Pahoa Advisory Group (KPAG) joined representatives from SSFM International and interested residents at the Keaau Elementary School cafeteria in order to go over the final EA for the project, which anticipates a Finding of No Significant impact.
Wide, four lane highways will be constructed to accomodate the growing population and traffic congestion.
From the EA:
2.2 Proposed Action – Four Lane Highway With Associated Access Management Improvements
As shown in Figure 2-1: Preferred Alternative, the Preferred Alternative would construct a highway that contains a four-lane divided cross section between the end of the Kea‘au Bypass and Pāhoa-Kapoho Road. Appendix A: Roadway Design Plans shows detailed design of the Preferred Alternative. The Preferred Alternative essentially combines Alternative 4 with the TSM measures (Alternative 2) as both were defined in the Draft EA.
The Preferred Alternative will incorporate designs that contain Context Sensitive features, in an effort to make the future roadway as compatible as possible with the surrounding communities. While many of the elements will not be designed until the final design stage, these features would incorporate the community’s preferences and include landscaping (with preference for non-invasive native species) and context sensitive designs of walls/structures, etc. If practicable, design exceptions may be considered on a case-by-case basis where protection of an important community or cultural feature constrains the design.
The Preferred Alternative assumes a design year of 2038. Refer to Section 3.2: Traffic and Transportation for an explanation of why 2038 was used.
The design of the Preferred Alternative is currently at a conceptual level. Decisions about curve radii, grades, slopes, etc. will be finalized during final design. The design of the highway will be consistent with HDOT standards and the design standards of the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officals (AASHTO).
2.2.1 Preferred Alternative Cross Section
Figure 2-2: Typical Cross Section shows the conceptual cross-section for the four-lane roadway. This cross-section is only representative and could vary in specific locations, such as where turn lanes are provided. Alternative designs that include context-sensitive elements like landscaping or other decorative features may be considered where appropriate. The concrete median barrier shown is for conceptual purposes to represent some type of median treatment.
The specific type of median treatment will be specified during the later stages of design. For the Preferred Alternative, travel lanes would be 12 feet wide, and a full eight foot shoulder/bikeway area would be provided in both directions. Outside of intersection areas, an impervious median with a raised barrier would divide the four-lane highway and generally be 10 feet wide, but could vary in width. Grass-lined border swale areas (typically eight feet wide) would buffer a five-foot wide pedestrian area from the roadway traffic, and contain an impervious bottom to collect drainage. Some additional pedestrian accommodations may be needed at bus pull-outs to meet requirements of the ADA. A guard rail may or may not be provided at the inside edge of the border area as specific conditions (utility poles, access driveways, etc.) dictate.
While the existing right-of-way varies in width between roughly 80 feet and 100 feet in width, the four-lane roadway would generally fit within a 108-foot right-of-way. The right-of-way needs would vary along the corridor and the right-of-way could be wider in places where the grade of the highway requires slopes to the sides of the highway to be wider than normal.
2.2.2 Access Control Under the Preferred Alternative
One of the major problems compromising safety on Kea‘au-Pāhoa Road is the uncontrolled access along the corridor. An important element of the Preferred Alternative will be to limit the number of access points along the most intensively-developed portion of the corridor.
When the Hawaiian Paradise Park and Orchidland subdivisions were developed, none of the access streets were connected across the highway and this has resulted in a large number of three-way intersections (T-intersections). There may also be a large number of driveways that will become right-in/right-out only access points. By consolidating access points to a smaller number of traffic-controlled intersections (which will use traffic signals or roundabouts), the Preferred Alternative will greatly improve safety, particularly for those vehicles that wish to make a left turn to/from a cross-street and need to cross opposing flows of traffic.
The access management changes that are proposed will support the PCDP’s goals of Village and Town Centers by providing improved, direct access to those areas from Kea‘au-Pāhoa Road.
Refer to Section 220.127.116.11: Puna Community Development Plan (PCDP) for more information.
Highway 130 is also considered one of the most dangerous roads on the island. Most recently, there was a fatal crash at the intersection of Route 130 and Ainaloa Boulevard. One of many tragic accidents along the only highway connecting Puna makai to Hilo.
For many residents in attendance, safety is the top priority. From the EA:
The Kea‘au-Pāhoa Road Corridor has very high crash rates, much higher than the state average. The need to improve safety and reduce the numbers and rates of crashes is a compelling one that has driven much of the public concern for improvements in this corridor. Many residents and visitors perceive Kea‘au-Pāhoa Road as a dangerous facility and in many cases, travelers will travel additional distances to avoid making certain traffic movements like left turns because of the perceived danger.
A major safety issue on Kea‘au-Pāhoa Road stems from the lack of gaps, or openings in traffic, to accommodate turning or crossing vehicles. There are no gaps because there are no forms of traffic control such as signals or roundabouts that would produce openings in the flow. Heavy volumes results in an almost continuous flow of traffic during peak hours, and in some off-peak conditions as well. Vehicles attempting to turn to or from Kea‘au-Pāhoa Road or cross the highway are confronted with a challenge to find an opening, and make risky maneuvers as a result.
HDOT collects crash statistics statewide. Crash statistics reflect only major crashes that are reported to HDOT. Major crashes include those resulting in death, bodily injury, and/or property damage exceeding $3,000 in cost.
FHWA has initiated a Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) as part of Section 1401 of SAFETEA-LU. As part of this program, FHWA has requested all states to determine the locations within each state that have accident rates in the top five percentile statewide, covering both intersections and highway segments. “Five Percent” reports are produced annually.
In HDOT’s 2008 Five Percent Report to FHWA, 79 intersections throughout the State of Hawai‘i on the State Highway System had at least three crashes per year for each of the past three years. The top five percentile of these 79 high-crash locations statewide is four intersections, all four of which are located on the Island of Hawai‘i, in the Puna District, and three of which are located along Kea‘au-Pāhoa Road: at Ainaloa Boulevard, at Kahakai Boulevard, and at Old Pāhoa Road. Traffic signals were identified in the report as measures to address the first two intersections.
The next step will be the project design phase. We’ll have more details on this throughout the week.