By CHELSEA JENSEN
Hawaii County officials are considering converting Alii Drive to one-way traffic in downtown Kailua-Kona.
The proposal calls for limiting traffic to one way on the road between Palani and Hualalai roads or Hualalai and Walua roads. Whether traffic will flow south- or northbound remains on the table, according to the department.
“It’s primarily for the public health and safety,” Public Works Director Warren Lee said about the intent behind the possible conversion that could happen in the next five years. “The vision is to improve traffic circulation in the Kailua Village and facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists.”
The traffic flow conversion would likely take place once Nani Kailua Drive is constructed between Kuakini Highway and Walua Road, he said. The proposal also assumes Kuakini Highway would already be widened to four lanes between the proposed intersection of Nani Kailua Drive and Kuakini Highway and Hualalai Road.
A focus group will convene to discuss the possible conversion at 12:30 p.m. May 22 at the West Hawaii Civic Center Community Meeting Hale. The purpose is to solicit suggestions and information about the pros and cons of a possible change to the traffic direction along Alii Drive from businesses, landowners, stakeholders and the community.
“Basically, we are trying to identify what (the community) thinks about one-way traffic and what they perceive to be the issues that need to be addressed if we go forward,” Lee said.
Kailua Village Business Improvement District Executive Director Debbie Baker said the district supports “the potential for enhancing public spaces along Alii Drive’s waterfront.”
“If the Nani Kailua Drive extension between Alii Drive and Kuakini Highway were to be built, this would allow for additional vehicular circulation and public parking,” she said. “A one-way traffic pattern might make possible the dream of outdoor dining spaces and safer, stronger pedestrian connections.”
The county’s recent proposal isn’t the first time one-way traffic has been considered for Alii Drive.
In mid-August 2004, the county initiated a 90-day pilot program that restricted Alii Drive to one southbound lane between Hualalai and Palani roads for three hours. The pilot ended about a month later because of traffic congestion and other issues.
The purpose, according to Stephens Media archives, was to create more freight loading zones in the area by allowing the mauka lane to be used for freight loading and unloading. Delivery truck drivers, the county, businesses and churches in the area agreed the conversion was the best solution at the time.
Lee said the pilot was the result of the county being unable to obtain federal funding to improve pedestrian access on Alii Drive in the Oneo Bay area. The improvements would have included removing the makai wall and installing utilities underground.
Without funding for the project, Lee said the county looked to other ways to improve pedestrian movement on Alii Drive. That led to studying one-way traffic and the unsuccessful pilot program.
Email Chelsea Jensen at email@example.com.