East Hawaii News

Downtown Hilo to get much needed road upgrades, starting with Kino‘ole resurfacing

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The intersection of Waiānuenue Avenue, Kamehameha Avenue and Highway 19 in Downtown Hilo. The Hawai‘i Department of Transportation plans to construct a roundabout and make other improvements at the intersection. Nathan Christophel photo/Big Island Now.

Much needed roadway upgrades and other improvements are slated for Downtown Hilo in the next few months, including resurfacing one road, repaving another and plans for a roundabout for a busy intersection.

It all starts on Monday with a resurfacing project for about 1.2 miles of Kino‘ole Street, from Wailuku Drive to Mohouli Street.

The road will be milled, repaved with 2 inches of asphalt concrete and then re-striped at an estimated cost of $350,000, which is being funded by the Hawai‘i County’s highways fuel tax.

Weather permitting, all work will be done from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The surface improvements are needed for the heavily traveled road that traverses downtown, fronting businesses that include McDonald’s, Sac N Save, L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, Antics Pizza and Penn Fitness and Training Center, as well as Lincoln Park and tennis courts.


Portions of the road have not been repaired for more than five years, according to the Hawai‘i County Department of Public Works. The project has been a priority of the county for some time.

The anticipated work schedule — which is subject to change — is as follows:

  • Feb. 13-14: Wailuku Drive to Waiānuenue Avenue
  • Feb. 15-16: Waiānuenue to Haili Street
  • Feb. 17 and 21: Haili to Mamo Street
  • Feb. 22-23: Mamo to Ponahawai Street
  • Feb. 24 and 27: Ponahawai to Hualālai Street
  • Feb. 28-March 1: Hualālai to Wailoa Street
  • March 2-3: Wailoa to Mohouli Street

The work is being done in blocks to minimize overall traffic impacts.

Public Works asks that no cars be parked along Kino‘ole Street during the resurfacing project. Motorists also can expect one lane closure during the day, with Hawai‘i Police Department officers directing traffic. There will be alternate routes to each section of the project as work continues.

An electronic sign alerts drivers that resurfacing will take place on Kino‘ole Street beginning today (Monday, Feb. 13). Nathan Christophel photo/Big Island Now.

Completing the Kino‘ole Street improvements now will also support traffic flow through downtown during the next major improvement project, which will involve more than resurfacing a road. In April, the Kīlauea Avenue and Keawe Street Rehabilitation Project begins.


The estimated $12.3 million repaving and re-striping project between Waiānuenue Avenue and Ponahawai Street is expected to begin April 3 and be completed by Aug. 25, weather permitting. It will also include replacing sidewalks and driveways and installing Americans With Disabilities Act compliant curb ramps.

Eighty percent of the project will be paid for with federal funds, with Hawaiʻi County paying for the remaining 20%.

The Hawai‘i County Department of Public Works, along with Department of Water Supply and Department of Environmental Management, will be host a community meeting to discuss the road, water and sewer work related to the upcoming Kīlauea Avenue and Keawe Street Rehabilitation Project in Hilo. Above, traffic drives along the roadway at the intersection with Mamo Street, where Kīlauea Avenue becomes Keawe Street. File photo by Nathan Christophel/Big Island Now.

Additional upgrades will include the Hawai‘i County Department of Environmental Management replacing aging sewer lines in the project area for an estimated $2 million. The Hawai‘i County Department of Water Supply also will replace water lines, increasing service capacity, and add fire hydrants at an estimated price of $1.4 million.

Hawai‘i Gas will replace gas lines in the project area as well.

The roadway improvements will improve traffic flow on the main road through Downtown Hilo that fronts businesses, including Hilo Town Tavern, Spencer Health and Fitness, Pineapples Island Fresh Cuisine, Downtown KTA at the intersection with Mamo Street where Kīlauea becomes Keawe, Subway, Ebisuya Sushi and Papa‘a Palaoa Bakery.


The project also is expected to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety and access to the main business area, along with the wastewater and water supply infrastructure upgrades.

A public meeting is planned for 5:30 p.m. Feb. 23 at the Aupuni Center Conference Room at 101 Pauahi St. in Hilo, during which the community will be provided details about the rehab project and have the chance to provide feedback.

Courtesy of the Hawai‘i County Department of Public Works.

A third project is a plan by the Hawai‘i Department of Transportation to construct a roundabout and make other improvements at the intersection of Waiānuenue Avenue, Kamehameha Avenue and Highway 19. It is near Kaipalaoa Landing Park on the Bayfront coastline and the Singing Bridge that spans the Wailuku River, where Hilo- and Hāmākua-bound traffic meet.

The Transportation Department did not respond to questions seeking additional information about the project before this story was published, but Public Works said the county supports the efforts to improve the safety of the intersection.

“The roads in Downtown Hilo have been in bad shape for many years and it’s great that the county is finding ways to find and execute the work,” said Hawai‘i County District 2 Councilwoman Jenn Kagiwada, who represents Downtown Hilo.

She added that Public Works Director Steve Pause and Mayor Mitch Roth are on board and have expressed support for making sure elements of the community-driven Downtown Hilo Mutlimodal Master Plan are included in improvement projects when and where possible. These improvements will make the community that much more accessible and navigable for other modes of transportation in addition to vehicles.

“I am excited that these road projects in Hilo are moving forward and I expect the improvements will benefit everyone who comes to shop, eat, work or live in the Downtown area,” Kagiwada said. “In addition to the smoother, safer roadways, these projects are an opportunity for our county to include improvements that are part of the Downtown Hilo Multimodal Plan in order to support more pedestrian and bicycle transportation and enhance the look and feel of the area.”

While the upcoming roadwork will cause some disruptions to usual traffic flow and parking in the areas to be improved, Kagiwada said she will work closely with Hawai‘i County Mayor Mitch Roth’s administration to make sure the public knows what’s happening each step of the way.

“I hope folks will be patient of the disruption as our government puts our tax dollars to work on the much needed improvements for our Downtown Hilo roads,” she said.

Those interested in receiving Kagiwada’s weekly e-newsletter that provides information about District 2 and county projects, plans and other business can contact her office at 808-961-8272.

For more information about the upcoming community meeting for the Kīlauea Avenue and Keawe Street Rehabilitation Project, contact Sherise Kana‘e-Kāne, information and educational specialist with Public Works, at 808-961-8499 or via email at [email protected].

Nathan Christophel
Nathan Christophel is a full-time reporter with Pacific Media Group. He has more than 25 years of experience in journalism as a reporter, copy editor and page designer. He previously worked at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in Hilo. Nathan can be reached at [email protected]
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