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Roundabout work to begin this summer

Construction of Hawaii Island’s first roundabout could begin as soon as August.

Salvador C. Panem, state Department of Transportation Hawaii district engineer, said Isemoto Contracting Co. Ltd. won the bid for the Pahoa roundabout earlier this month.

“Once we verify everything and award the contract, then we normally have 90-100 days to have a notice to proceed, and that’s when they can have the groundbreaking,” he said.

The bid opened on March 6 and Panem said the project manager is analyzing the numbers to make sure Isemoto Contracting Co. Ltd. is in compliance with the state’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program.

According to the DOT website, the DBE program was established to ensure that firms owned by minorities, women and other socially and economically disadvantaged persons have an equal opportunity to participate in U.S. DOT-assisted projects. The goal of the program is to level the playing field on which DBEs may compete for contracts and subcontracts in the transportation industry.

A detour plan will be implemented once the project moves forward.

The roundabout is being built to reduce traffic collisions at the notoriously dangerous intersection, which lacks a traffic light.

The idea proved controversial and several Puna residents spoke out against the roundabout during a public meeting in January 2013.

Concerned residents argued the roundabout was a poor solution and would lead to confusion among motorists not used to negotiating traffic circles.

Panem said the majority of public input regarding the implementation of a roundabout was positive.

“When we were planning this intersection improvement, we had several public meetings of which the majority of the community wanted a roundabout. We looked at it and found that a roundabout would work in that location,” he said.

Hope Cermelj, a Kalapana resident, is among those who expressed support of the project.

“It’s the wave of the future for America and the wave of the future for our district,” she said.

Panem also expects the project will have a positive impact on driving conditions on the east side of the island.

“This is the first roundabout on a state highway on the Big Island and I hope it will improve the traffic,” he said.

Panem said the $4.8 million dollar, year-long undertaking is expected to start in late August or September.

Funding for the project is split between 80 percent federal money and 20 percent state funds.

The roundabout will include bike and pedestrian paths. It also will preserve some existing landscaping while creating new areas for fauna.

Email Megan Moseley at mmoseley@hawaiitribune-


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