LIHUE — A roundabout is being proposed for the Kuhio Highway and Mailihuna Road intersection in Kapaa.
The project would include improvements to the Kapaa Stream Bridge and modify an existing private driveway that is at the intersection.
“A new sidewalk on the mauka side of Kuhio Highway would connect to the Mailihuna Road intersection with Kapaa Stream Bridge. The bridge replacement would remove the existing two-span bridge and construct a single-span bridge that is longer and wider than the existing,” said Project Manager Mike Will during a recent Planning Commission meeting.
He said the curved roads and one-way travel around the roundabout eliminate the possibility for T-bone and head-on collisions, improve safety, while also making improvements to the operational aspects of intersection vehicular travel.
The estimated $15 to $20 million project will be funded through Federal Surface Transportation Program funding, matched with state of Hawaii transportation funding.
It is anticipated to begin in early 2019 and is expected to take 1 to 1 1/2 years to finish.
“This project will improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists, improve operational deficiencies at the intersection, address existing bridge structural deficiencies and meet current design standards for roadway width, load capacity, bridge railing and transitions and bridge approaches,” Will said.
Tommy Noyes, executive director of Kauai Path, said he supports the project because traffic heading north on Kuhio Highway descends to a slope that leads to a long straightaway along Kealia Beach.
“Those conditions lead to excessive vehicle speed and we know that speed kills in terms of roadway violence, so in an effort to keep our roadways safer, efforts to install traffic calming will reduce traffic fatalities, and a roundabout is the perfect way to do that,” he said.
The roundabout will cause motorists to travel at more sensible speeds. A traffic signal would not necessarily reduce traffic speeds, he said.
“People might speed up trying to get through a yellow light and potentially cause crashes,” he said.
Another cause for concern in that area is the left-hand turn.
“Left-hand turns at Mailihuna Road are more complex than standard intersections and I think one of the most important factors is this is the access and egress from Kapaa High School, so you’re going to have an unusually high number of young drivers there, less experienced, more impulsive and with a higher statistical likelihood of having a crash,” he said.
Kauai resident Felicia Cowden agreed with Noyes regarding the left-hand turn onto Mailihuna Road at the public hearing on the proposal.
“That left-hand turn coming down Mailihuna Road is very difficult with a lot of teenage drivers. I live on the North Shore, I have a lot of teenage friends, I’d like to keep them safe,” Cowden said.