(BIVN) – The Hawaiʻi County Council got an update on Tuesday concerning the ongoing Waiānuenue Avenue rehab project in Hilo during a meeting of the Public Works and Mass Transit Committee.
Steve Pause, the acting director of the Hawaiʻi County Department of Public Works, reported the $10 million dollar project is “probably about 50%-60% percent done” with the contractor, Glover Construction, having completed some final paving. The STIP project – funded with State and Federal contributions – primarily involves rehab, “which is essentially cold planing, fixing sidewalks, putting down new pavement,” Pause explained. The contractor has had a couple of severe weeks of rain-out.
The project recently came under public scrutiny by “complete streets” advocates, who saw the project as a missed opportunity to enhance Waiānuenue Avenue as a multi-purpose roadway.
Sally Ancheta, Secretary of the Hilo Bayfront Trails, for example, wrote in her testimony that “as a resident of Hilo and a mom, whose son would have loved to have been able to ride his bike to high school but we lacked safe routes for him in the Waiakea area, I implore the Department of Public Works to re-engage our active transportation community members and residents of downtown Hilo, to look at options to restore Waianuenue Avenue to include bike lanes. We have had too many road rehabilitation and restriping projects presented to us with bike lanes and redesign for multimodal transportation, only to find the final project is created only for motorized vehicles.”
“We can do better, we must do better for our residents and visitors,” Ancheta wrote. “We won’t be able to improve our health outcomes and increase our access to physical activity, until we design roads that include safe bike lanes.”
Hilo councilmember Aaron Chung acknowledged the “hope that there could be some bike paths put into place, because it would for sure be a great enhancement to that roadway and the Hilo community as a whole. The reality of the situation is that roadway needed to be repaired for motorized vehicular traffic, primarily. Because it was getting to a point where it was untenable, to both the residents, people traversing that, as well as to emergency vehicles,” Chung said.
“If the Department of Public Works is able to work things out with the community, and add bike lanes on that corridor – the existing corridor – then that would be great,” Chung said, “but they should not compromise the main purpose of improving that roadway, and that was for motorized vehicular traffic. And take into consideration that the emergency vehicles have to use that that that major thoroughfare, as well. So we cannot compromise those two things.”
“I got a call from the department of education,” Chung added. “I didn’t reach out to them. They reached out to me. They don’t want to get into this fray about whether bike paths should or should not be placed there, of course. But they wanted to express, or have expressed to everyone here, as well as the Public Works Department… that whatever parking spaces they have on both sides of that street are needed, and it’s actually short of what they need.”
“I’ve had lots of discussions with our traffic and engineering folks, and we do we do take complete streets seriously,” acting director Pause said. “We were behind complete streets. So, if there was ever a concern or consideration that we were anti-complete streets, I can definitely dispel that today.”