Safety work planned for busy Kapa’a roundabout

LIHU’E — State Department of Transportation Highways Division leaders will fund the building of a crosswalk, ramps and a sidewalk at the intersection of ‘Olohena Road and the Kapa’a bypass road to guard against pedestrian accidents involving children and senior citizens, a top DOT leader told members of the Kaua’i County Council yesterday.

During a meeting of the council members at the historic County Building, Steve Kyono, who heads the DOT’s Highways Division office on Kaua’i, said DOT leaders decided on funding the improvements after safety concerns were raised by Kapa’a resident Jerome Freitas and other residents.

Freitas, who is known as “the Shadow,” travels around the island to identify unsafe conditions he feels government officials should correct.

The safety improvements will result in smoother traffic flow, particularly in and around Kapa’a town, the scene of daily traffic jams.

Hanalei resident Dr. Ray Chuan said the council members should not be congratulating themselves or DOT officials for the job at hand.

The additional work at the roundabout would not have gotten underway had it not been for the intervention of Freitas, said Chuan.

Freitas has said that students at Kapa’a Middle School and seniors walk around and through the roundabout, and that they could get hit by motorists at any time.

For the latest work at the roundabout, Kyono announced the following:

  • Construction of a crosswalk at Mala Road, which comes under the jurisdiction of Kaua’i County leaders. Kyono said the DOT leaders will shoulder the responsibility of having the crosswalks built, in short order with DOT resources and men, because of the impact from the state-funded roundabout project;
  • Construction of a sidewalk that would start at the Mala Road crossing, travel along the northwest side of the round-about and then link up with the northern entry to the extension of the temporary Kapa’a bypass road;
  • Construction of two ramps on each side of Mala Road that are in compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

Kyono said funds are being identified for the work, that a bid for the project will go out soon, and that he hopes that all of the work will be done by fall of this year.

Inquiring as to when the work can start and finish, Councilman Jay Furfaro said, “I just want to make sure it stays very high on your radar screen.”

“It sure is,” Kyono replied.

Kyono said the cost of the project work will not be known until the contract is awarded.

Councilwomen Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho and JoAnn Yukimura thanked Kyono for responding to a community need, but wondered why the improvements were not included in the original work on the roundabout.

That type of work fell through the cracks in the development of the project, Kyono explained.

“We sometimes overlook something,” he said. “When the work all got started, I didn’t think we had envisioned that there was that much pedestrian use in the area.”

Freitas has said the need was always there.

He said youths walk through and around the roundabout on their way to and from Kapa’a Middle School, which is located up the block from the traffic-control structure.

Kyono said he is glad that DOT officials have been able to respond to such needs.

Kyono said Councilman Furfaro contacted Rodney K. Haraga, director of the DOT, after he got calls from people inquiring about the improvements.

As an interim measure, Iseri-Carvalho asked the crosswalks be put in as soon as possible.

“We use the park regularly, and there is even more enhanced activities that are taking place at the (Kapa’a Hawaii Army National Guard) armory currently with the TEEN project that the mayor (Bryan Baptiste) has initiated as part of their drug plan. So they are using the armory quite extensively,” Iseri-Carvalho said.

Kyono said putting in the crosswalks will be a top priority with him, and that he will work with County Clerk Peter Nakamura to draft legislation to get the crosswalks put in with DOT forces, possibly in one month’s time.

Jesse Fukushima, an announced mayoral candidate and a former member of the Kaua’i County Council, said the proposals “sound like a good idea.” However, he said more signs need to be installed to allow for smoother and safer traffic flow through the roundabout, although yield signs are fairly visible around the traffic-control structure.

“It (having more signs in place) is critical,” Fukushima said. “You have all these kids coming down from the schools.”

The cost of the new work would be in addition to the $3.7 million state contract won by leaders of Koga Engineering to build the roundabout, which is now opened for use by the public, and to extend the temporary Kapa’a bypass road along an old cane-haul road mauka of Kapa’a New Park to the north end of Kapa’a town.

The new road behind Kapa’a New Park measures about eight-tenths of a mile, and would only be for southbound traffic, from Kuhio Highway to the round-about intersection.

Many residents questioned whether the roundabout could work, because the concept was foreign to them. Now many residents are thankful it has been built, various council members said.

Council members thanked Kyono for pushing through the project, and for looking at innovative ways to move traffic thorough Kapa’a town.

Kyono said he would consider having roundabouts built at other appropriate locations on Kaua’i.

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