By TOM CALLIS
Tribune-Herald staff writer
The Mo‘oheau Bus Terminal has welcomed the new year with a new look.
The downtown Hilo facility went through a four-month makeover ending on Christmas Eve making it more aesthetically pleasing and accessible for the disabled.
On Thursday, Hawaii County celebrated the $664,000 renovation with officials applauding the improvements to the heavily used building and Mo‘oheau Park.
“This is beautiful,” said Mayor Billy Kenoi, who noted the project had been on the books for “many years.”
“A benefit to the downtown is a benefit to everyone,” he added at the terminal “rededication” attended by about 30 people.
A driver for the project was to make the facility and the nearby bandstand compliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
To meet those standards, walkways were widened, bathrooms were made more accessible, and ramps were added or redone with a lower grade.
The county also took advantage of the planned construction to repaint the facility, replace the roof and add skylights.
In addition, the Hilo Downtown Improvement Association’s office at the terminal was renovated to provide more lobby space.
Association President Alice Moon said the group sees between 30,000 and 40,000 people a year at the office, where it sells bus tickets and provides information for tourists.
The office had been cramped, she said, with visitors having to squeeze in to reach the counter.
The new office will make a big difference, Moon said, adding she expects the number of visitors to double.
“This is a very special place,” she said. “We love it dearly. And now it’s even better for the entire community.”
Bus riders waiting at the terminal said the facility looked newer.
It was last renovated in 1988.
“It’s just more comfortable and cleaner,” said Mark Wildman.
Edmond Pali Jr., who was at the small celebration on the makai side of the facility, came with Esther Suyama, a member of his church who frequently uses the Hele-On buses.
Both said they appreciate the renovation.
“The surrounding is beautiful,” Pali said. “The bathrooms are elegant.”
Construction was done by Site Engineering Inc, which started work on Aug. 13.
The DIA was relocated to a trailer and a temporary shelter was setup for bus users during construction.
Moon said the temporary relocation was tough but worth it.
The association has less office space due to the renovation and is leasing another space downtown to handle administration. But Moon said the additional lobby space more than makes up for the smaller work area.
Email Tom Callis at email@example.com.