Driving a car around West Hawai‘i during Ironman race day, or race days, in this case, is hectic. But it’s not impossible.
For the first time in its four-decade history, Ironman is hosting two race days this year, Thursday and Saturday, but the double format is not the only change this year: Traffic patterns have been adjusted in some instances to try and make operating a car easier and safer while athletes endure their 140.6-mile journey.
One of the big changes is that the north-bound lanes on Queen Ka‘ahumanu Highway along the biking course will be reserved for motorists this year, as opposed to partitioning the road as was done in years past. The change is the result of the highway have been widened during its reconstruction, which wasn’t the case the last time the race was held in Kona three years ago.
Bikers will stick to the south-bound lanes and motorists will have the north ones. They’ll intersect at the turn off to the Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keāhole, but traffic safety officers will be stationed there to ensure the process is as seamless as possible. Airport access won’t ever be restricted.
Another notable change is that Kuakini Highway in Kailua-Kona between Hualālai Road and Kahakai Estates will be closed on race days from 6:30-11:30 a.m., with limited access.
Generally, the high density streets will remain the same: Queen Ka‘ahumanu Highway, Kuakini Highway, Palani Road between the two highways, and Ali‘i Drive, will be good areas to avoid in a car.
But the following maps should help motorists navigate driving conditions on competition days. A link to the maps can be accessed here.
Diana Bertsch, Ironman World Championship Race Director, said the organization knows it impacts the community massively when the 5,000-plus athletes descend on Kona, but a little planning by residents beforehand on driving conditions will help lessen the burden.
“We’re trying to keep the community open as much as we can,” she said.