East Hawaii News

Puainako Street Informational Meeting Draws a Large Crowd

October 16, 2012, 7:35 PM HST
* Updated October 17, 8:58 AM
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A large crowd was on hand tonight for the state Department of Transportation’s informational meeting on the long-awaited Puainako widening and realignment project.

Before the meeting got underway, many of the nearly 200 people at the Waiakea Intermediate School cafeteria huddled around a long table covered with aerial photographs showing the alignment of the new roadway.

A rapt audience then listened as transportation officials described the process involved in the 1.5 mile project which had its beginnings in 1993 when the state completed an environmental impact statement for both Puainako Street and the Puainako Extension running from Komohana Street to Saddle Road in Kaumana.

The extension was completed in 2004. The state took the project over from the county in 2005, and began a redesign in 2009.

Puainako Street is actually a state roadway, designated as Highway 2000.

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The project will be broken down into two phases.

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The first will be the lower portion which involves the widening from the Waiakea elementary and intermediate schools to Kilauea Avenue. The upper section will be done in the second phase.

The reasons for the project are numerous, officials said, with the primary one being existing traffic problems. The area is densely populated, and has two schools on Puainako and the University of Hawaii at Hilo nearby on Kawili Street.

The new roadway will be two lanes in each direction separated by medians. It will also have sidewalks, bike lanes and other improvements.

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Two new traffic signals will be built, on Naniakea and Nohea streets, and the existing signal at Kawili Street will be moved to the new alignment.

The new roadway would diverge slightly from its current route just above Kinoole Street but will follow the existing Puainako Street until the area of Anela Street. There the new alignment will jog sharply to the north, running on the other side of 34 properties extending up to Komohana Street, 32 of which contain homes.

Jadine Urasaki, deputy director of the state Department of Transportation, told Big Island Now the state would need to acquire portions of approximately 33 properties for the project. She said the state is hopeful that negotiations with landowners will be successful so the state won’t have to resort to eminent domain proceedings.

The original EIS determined that five houses in the area of Kinoole Street would need to be purchased. Officials tonight said that two of those houses no longer exist but three may still need to be demolished to make way for the new roadway.

Some of the homes’ frontages also will be affected as the new roadway will be built right up to the existing right-of-way, and in some cases further into existing yards.

Some properties may also be affected during construction itself.

“There may have to be some grading on your property,” said Austen Drake, an engineer with SSFM, the Honolulu-based engineering firm handling the design and consulting for the project.

Other impacts could be loss of existing parking for businesses and schools and increased noise for homes closest to the new road. In some cases, noise barriers will be erected.

“That’s something we’ll have to look at in the future,” Drake said.

A website with maps and other information is being prepared but Drake could not say when that would be available.

He said the project design is expected to continue through 2013, but won’t be completed until land acquisition begins in 2014. A contractor will likely be hired in 2015 with construction beginning that year or the next.

The project may not be completed until 2019, Drake said.

Another informational meeting is tentatively scheduled for next March.

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