Kīlauea Avenue/Keawe Street rehab project in Hilo nearly 50% complete

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Road and utility work continues as part of the Kīlauea Avenue/Keawe Street Rehabilitation Project in downtown Hilo.

Work continued Thursday night near Hilo Town Tavern as part of the Kīlauea Avenue/Keawe Street Rehabilitation Project in downtown Hilo. (Photo by Nathan Christophel/Big Island Now)

The project, which includes repaving and restriping of Keawe and a portion of Kīlauea from Ponahawai Street to Waiānuenue Avenue, sidewalk and driveway replacement, installation of Americans with Disabilities Act compliant curb ramps and the repair and relocation of sewer, water and other utilities, began April 17.

Pedestrian and bicycle safety and access to the main business area also will be upgraded.

According to the Hawai‘i County Department of Public Works, work is 46% complete and the project remains on schedule, despite a few expected hiccups including the discovery of incomplete and inaccurately documented underground utilities during sidewalk replacement.

The project should be completed by August 2024, barring any future delays.


Public Works is working with general contractor Jas W. Glover of Hilo on the project. The county departments of Environmental Management and Water Supply are responsible for the sewer and water utility work, respectively, and Hawai‘i Gas is also replacing gas lines in the project area.

The upgrades are expected to improve traffic flow on the main artery through downtown Hilo that fronts businesses such as 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.

There also are residential properties in the project area.

Daytime work happened for about a month after the project started. However, to reduce impacts on businesses in the construction area, including limited parking, a majority of the work has since been done at night.


“Pretty amazing the entire street is messed up overnight each night but drivable each morning!” commented Hilo resident Jeff Hansel in an Oct. 16 Facebook post. “And the bits and pieces that have been finished (sidewalks and driveways) are phenomenal!!!”

The rehabilitation of the aging century-old roadway is a top priority for Public Works.

The total project cost, including road improvements and utility work, is estimated at $16 million, with more than $12 million for the road itself, $2 million for sewer infrastructure and $1.4 million for water line improvements.

The road work will be paid for by a combination of 80% federal funding and 20% from the county coffers. The water and sewer work were added to the project after being contracted out.

  • A crew with contractor Jas W. Glover of Hilo works Thursday night near the intersection of Keawe Street and Haili Street in downtown Hilo. (Photo by Nathan Christophel/Big Island Now)
  • An employee with contractor Jas W. Glover of Hilo works Thursday night Keawe Street, near the intersection with Kalākaua Street, in downtown Hilo. (Photo by Nathan Christophel/Big Island Now)
  • A crew with contractor Jas W. Glover of Hilo works Thursday night in the intersection of Kīlauea Avenue/Keawe Street and Mamo Street in downtown Hilo. (Photo by Nathan Christophel/Big Island Now)
  • Construction machines sit on the west side of Keawe Street in October. The Kīlauea Avenue/Keawe Street Rehabilitation Project and accompanying utility upgrades are ongoing, with the project still on track to be finished in August 2024. (Big Island Now file photo)

Construction equipment is being staged just off the south corner at the Ponahawai and Kīlauea intersection. After the project is complete, that space will be turned over to the Hawai‘i County Department of Parks and Recreation.

Public Works has required law enforcement to be present at any road closures and detours around the project area and any necessary lane and parking closures to ensure the safety of the contractor and public.

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

It was inevitable that the road and utility work would disrupt usual traffic flow and parking along the one-way street and Public Works has received some complaints, mainly about daytime versus nighttime work.

The ongoing project also caused changes to the routes for the 11th annual Hawai‘i Island LGBTQ+ Pride Parade, 16th annual Hawai‘i Island Veterans Day Parade and Downtown Hilo Christmas Light Parade in November.

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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