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DOT says installation of Shower Drive lane would not begin until 2024

It will be several years before the state Department of Transportation starts work on a project that would add an “acceleration lane” at the intersection of Highway 130 and Shower Drive in Puna.

“Based on our priorities and funding, we are projecting early 2024 to start construction,” DOT spokeswoman Shelly Kunishige confirmed Friday.

Kunishige previously told the Tribune-Herald that the lane would allow drivers from Shower Drive to merge safely onto northbound Highway 130, also known as Keaau-Pahoa Road, while maintaining the morning contraflow.

A dedicated right-turn lane from Shower Drive onto northbound Keaau-Pahoa Road was removed in August 2019 in order to safely facilitate the morning contraflow because there were “insufficient facilities” for an acceleration lane, she said in May.

It was announced earlier this year that $1.3 million in state capital improvement bond funding had been allocated by the state Legislature to reinstall a “right-turn-on-red” traffic signal from Shower Drive to Highway 130.

“My initial thought was they should not have removed it in the first place,” state Sen. Joy San Buenaventura, a Puna Democrat, said Friday. “Sooner is better than later. … I am disappointed that the original (plans for) four lanes between Keaau to Pahoa, which was in the state transportation improvement plan for 10 years, was removed and we just have to get this small portion (reinstalled) to allow for better traffic flow.”

Traffic in the area has increased because Puna’s population is growing, despite the 2018 eruption of Kilauea volcano, she said. That eruption also closed down some recreational areas so families now travel to Hilo to go to the beach.

San Buenaventura also said Puna is “the bedroom community of Hilo,” and people commute from the district to Hilo for work, school and other reasons.

“So, with (an) increasing population base, the traffic is going to get worse,” she said, adding that the DOT needs to plan for that growth and increase capacity.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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