By TOM CALLIS
Tribune-Herald staff writer
The state Department of Transportation is moving ahead with plans for a roundabout on Highway 130 near Pahoa.
The traffic circle will be built at the intersection of Keaau-Pahoa Road and Pahoa Village Road, with construction beginning this summer.
The $5 million project is expected to take a year to complete. A detour will be set up through Kahakai Boulevard and Pahoa Village Road.
Plans for the roundabout will be discussed at a community meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Keaau Elementary School cafeteria, 16-680 Keaau-Pahoa Road.
DOT will be taking comments on the project, including the detour, said Steven Yoshida, project manager.
A roundabout was identified as the preferred alternative for improving the intersection in 2011 due to its high accident rate.
The DOT reported 40 major wrecks, with 36 injuries, from 2004-2007 at the intersection.
Only the intersection with Ainaloa Boulevard recorded more, at 49, on the Keaau-Pahoa Road.
An environmental assessment on proposed improvements to the road said that roundabouts reduce fatalities by 90 percent while typically offering less traffic delays than signals.
As downsides, it noted the unfamiliarity Hawaii drivers have with roundabouts and the potential for longer walking distances for pedestrians.
State Sen. Russell Ruderman, D-Puna, Ka‘u, said he supports putting in a roundabout, noting the need to improve the T-intersection, managed by a stop sign.
“I don’t think we can put traffic lights everywhere to solve the problem,” he said.
Ruderman also noted that Hawaii has few roundabouts, adding one in Puna may help determine whether they could be expanded elsewhere.
“According to national statistics, they are very safe and very effective,” he said.
DOT plans to start with a single-lane roundabout to allow drivers to get used to it, and expand it to two after traffic levels increase.
Puna County Councilman Gregor Ilagan said he is looking forward to any improvement.
“I feel like that intersection is one of the most dangerous intersections in the whole entire island,” he said. “And I feel that any way to minimize that danger would be a benefit for the Puna community.”
Email Tom Callis at firstname.lastname@example.org.