LIHUE — Starting Thursday, it will no longer be possible to turn left onto Kuhio Highway from Hardy Street.
Hawaii Department of Transportation engineers made the decision to permanently close the left-turn lane in coordination with county officials due to safety concerns related to the Lihue Mill Bridge Project. That project is intended to ease congestion by expanding the highway to four lanes of traffic.
Due to space restrictions, there will not be enough room on the highway for a fifth, dedicated center lane to receive traffic turning left from Hardy Street.
“We all agreed it would create a hazardous situation if people were turning left without that dedicated lane,” HDOT design engineer Donald Smith said. “That would not be a safe movement.”
Instead of turning left at Hardy Street, motorists who want to go that direction should use the nearby intersection of Rice Street and Kaumualii Highway, where there are two dedicated left-turn lanes and a traffic signal.
Smith added that the decision was not based on accidents or complaints about the intersection as it’s currently set up.
One longtime Lihue resident said he was upset with the upcoming closure. The 85-year-old, who didn’t want to use his name, said removing driving routes is never a good thing for commuters.
“You don’t close off main streets unless they got a way to make it easier, not more difficult,” he said. “Don’t cut off streets and access.”