UPDATE STATUS REPORT - Sunday, May 20, 2007


                      Currently, there are only single major roads between Hilo and Keaau, between Keaau and Pahoa, and between Keaau and Volcano.  If any of the three primary roads is blocked, part of Puna would be isolated.  While Puna is currently relatively sparsely populated, it is the fastest growing district in Hawaii State.  Between the 1990 and 2000 census, Puna grew by 52% and will continue a high growth rate because of the abundance of properties already subdivided and build able that are the lowest cost in the State!  In the absence of a workable strategy to prevent growth, it is prudent and logical to plan to accommodate that growth. 


                        Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) experts and their consultants all talk about moving more cars more efficiently by improving existing roads.  State officials are always saying that there are limited funds and that Puna is getting more than our fair share of limited road funds based upon our population. That may be true but investment into roads and basic infrastructure should be prioritized according to need and Puna has a greater need because of its rapid growth and the fact there are only three single-choice corridors in our HUGE district! 


                        The experts will almost automatically choose the cheapest solution to address problems.  Traffic congestion?  Add more lanes to existing roads!  That's the HDOT's highest Puna priority and their solution for Keaau-Pahoa Road (Highway 130). It's a needed improvement, but the Puna community should demand that it be a divided green-belted highway with all of the features of the Volcano Highway 11 between Hilo and Keaau.  Frontage roads should run parallel to Highway 130 so cars can enter only at intersections.  There should be enough shoulders and turn on and turn off lanes for safe flow. Highway 130 improvements are already in the works and the community should support it, but insist that it be built to the highest standards with provisions for safe future enlargement if necessary.


                        I regret to report that Puna is facing an uphill battle!   HDOT took Puna Makai Alternate Road (PMAR) off from the State Transportation Improvement Project (STIP) list!  PUNA RESIDENTS SHOULD INSIST THAT PMAR BE RESTORED TO THE STIP LIST!


                        Two recent presentations indicate that Honolulu-based experts are either unwilling or unable to understand the needs and desires of Puna residents, or they will again attempt to shove their solutions down our throats!




                        On Wednesday, May 16, 2007 I attended the Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) meeting called to gather public input on the State Transportation Improvement Project (STIP) draft plan that needs to be approved by October. This plan contains the statewide priorities and it is necessary to have a major project listed on STIP in order for it to qualify for any federal funds.


                        I was very disappointed to notice that Puna Makai Alternate Road (PMAR) had been removed and no longer listed on STIP. This would disqualify PMAR from receiving any more federal funds.  In the last congress US representative Ed Case obtained earmarked funds to begin planning so it was very disappointing that HDOT had dropped it from the list and disqualified PMAR from receiving additional federal earmarked funding!


                        We were forced to sit through an extended presentation of bureaucratic gooblygook before public participation was allowed. I had the honor of making the opening public statement and cited Puna's rapid growth, the need for alternate roads, and the need to relist PMAR to the STIP list.


                        CREATING A "HILO-TO-KEAAU ALTERNATE ROAD" SHOULD BE PUNA'S HIGHEST PRIORITY!  This makes sense as of the three major Puna corridors, this corridor has the heaviest volume and will be next to reach capacity. It is very difficult for an expert to recommend that a new corridor be built as they really are not anxious to endure the controversy and heated arguments that automatically accompany the selection of an alignment of any new corridor. If allowed to make the decision, the experts will recommend adding lanes to Volcano Highway.


                       Wayne Yoshioka, P.E. has been retained as a consultant for the transportation issues of the Puna Community Development Plan and is the Manager of Transportation/Planning/Traffic Engineer and Senior Supervising Transportation Engineer for Parsons, Brinkerhoff, Quade & Douglas, Inc. of 1001 Bishop Stree, Suite 2400 (American Savings Bank Tower), Honolulu, Hawaii.  He can be contacted at (808) 531-7094 or through his email: YoshiokaW@pbworld.com


                        I attended Wayne's presentation on Friday, May 18, 2007 at Cooper Center in Volcano with about 30 others which was billed to be a fact-finding exercise.  Wayne's presentation seemed specifically designed to try to build support for Volcano Highway 11 to be widened. I come to that conclusion due to:


                1.    His formal presentation focused on "widening Highway 11" and until several of us brought it up,  "alternate roads" were not mentioned at all.


                2.    Puna Makai Alternate Road (PMAR) is Puna's priority but only the old Puna Regional Circulation Plan alignment that aimed towards the center of Hawaiian Paradise Park then turning mauka to hit Keaau-Pahoa Road (Hwy 130) was shown.  He made unequivocal statements that "PMAR is only to be considered for the distant future." He claimed to have reviewed all community input (including Fuku-Bonsai's website that includes details of a strongly supported PMAR alignment) but seems to have an irreversible bias. 


                3.    Until Rick Warshauer brought out the Kulani-to-Upper Hilo Alternate Road, there had been no mention and none of the formal presentation had any graphics that could be used to describe the route to the audience.





It is necessary to create alternate roads and two higher priority roads are being recommended:


           1.        "MODIFIED PUNA MAKAI ALTERNATE ROAD (MODIFIED PMAR)."   An alternate makai road for Puna has been discussed for many years and the community has not been able to reach a consensus.  This proposed alignment is superior and is the least controversial as it does not go through any private subdivision.  In addition, it utilizes the last remaining open "volcano to lower Puna" corridor to provide two major alternatives.


           2.        "KULANI-TO-UPPER HILO ALTERNATE ROAD."  Hilo Hospital is the priority destination and this can dramatically reduce travel time from all parts of Puna! 




                     MODIFIED PUNA MAKAI ALTERNATE ROAD.  PMAR was extensively documented in the 2005 Puna Regional Circulation Plan.  The major controversy is whether PMAR should go through Hawaiian Paradise Park.  This "Modified PMAR" does not go through or hook up to any private subdivision and should, therefore, have the least amount of opposition and the largest consensus support.  Modified PMAR is superior to all past alignments.  Rather than only relieve traffic from lower Puna, it effectively partners with both Keaau-Pahoa Road 130 and Volcano Highway 11 in also addressing the needs of both lower and upper Puna. There are three possible primary PMAR alignments between the Hilo and Keaau section: 


           1.        MAUKA PMAR.  This alignment connects to Railroad Avenue in Hilo and is usually the most discussed.  However, businesses are well established on both sides and it would require public condemnation of either side for the full length of the road at prohibitive costs and disruption. Shipman initially favored this alignment.


           2.        MAKAI PMAR.   Some favor this routing as it presents the least disruption of the macadamia nut orchards.  However, it would bisect the large block of Hawaiian Homes land and this generated strong opposition in the past.  To go ocean side of that block would require a lengthier less efficient road.


           3.        CENTRAL PMAR. The center route has directness and major advantages including several effective exits that can serve as catalysts for beneficial developments including Kamehameha, Kekuanaoa, Puainako, Kawailani, Makalika, Macadamia and Keaau By-Pass.  Several exits intersect with Railroad so there will be extensive dispersal of the heavy projected traffic volume. The primary disadvantage is the bisection of the macadamia nut orchards and recommendations will be presented to reduce the impact. 


                     RECOMENDATION REGARDING EASEMENT WIDTHS.   State Department of Transportation recommends a 250' easement for "Neighbor Island Freeways."  However, an extra wide 500' easement is recommended due to the relatively low current land costs, the desire of the community for green-belting to retain the rural atmosphere, and to provide a full range of amenities for new corridors including jogging-biking paths, transmission of water and utilities, a range of mass transit options and to be better able to effectively address highway noise, security, and pollutants. 


                     A UNIQUE BIKING-JOGGING OPPORTUNITY.    A remnant section of Old Puna Trail has been preserved at the Keaukaha Military Reservation near the Hilo Airport and it is recommended that it be integrated as a unique feature and amenity of Modified PMAR with an 8' wide hard-surface and incorporating parking lots, restrooms and water fountains in strategic locations.  This is a preferable exercise alternative in the public view and safer than lonely rural roads.  A biking-jogging tunnel will allow a non-stop passing through the Keaau / PMAR Interchange.  A graceful bikable overpass could be an attractive feature and conversational accent that visiting joggers will publicize.  Near the Kurtistown end of Modified PMAR is the start of the Old Volcano Trail that extends into Mountain View.  The entire length will accommodate marathons and it will be an attractive downhill bicycle ride.  


                      FUNDING AND JURISDICTIONAL ISSUES.  All emphasis should first gather consensus and support for the Modified PMAR alignment. Because it is already on the State Transportation Improvement Project (STIP) list, it can be fast-tracked and can qualify for federal funding for roads in proximity to airports.  This is timely as our senior US Senator Daniel Inouye is currently chairman of the senate transportation committee. US Representative Mazie Hirono is a member of the house transportation committee and both are position to insert earmarked funding legislation.  (NOTE:  WHEN THIS WAS WRITTEN, PMAR WAS ON THE STIP LIST.  THE MOST RECENT STIP DRAFT DOES NOT INCLUDE PMAR!)


                     PMAR will require Hawaii County leadership as it will not qualify to become a State highway. However, the State will be intimately involved through its various branches as it controls a large number of the affected properties including Hilo Pier, Hilo Airport, Keaukaha Military Reservation, Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and the Department of Transportation who are designing Keaau-Pahoa Highway 130 Improvements and who may be able to incorporate the major Keaau-PMAR Interchange.  This routing has some smaller private parcels, but the great bulk of the affected property is either State of Hawaii or a few large private owners.


                     ML Partners, the C. Brewer successor who owns the macadamia nut orchards will be most heavily impacted.  Modified PMAR will divide and handicap the efficiency of their operations and it would be appropriate to include two underpasses.  Perhaps the full-width easement could be acquired but only the portion needed for the highway would initially be taken out of production. The orchards could be an attractive promotional landscaping to include fencing for security and the easement width reduced. Mauna Loa Macadamia Visitor Center will get a more efficient entrance.  


                     Much of the area around Keaau is owned by W.H. Shipman Ltd. and they have been consulted.  Shipman has a history of community support and donated the land for the Keaau By-Pass Road. Their primary concern is the preservation of their primary agricultural lands and this influenced the positioning of the Keaau / PMAR Interchange, the recommendation of the central over the makai PMAR route, and the concept of the connector and collector roads to address Paradise Park road needs. 


                     MODIFIED PMAR FEATURES & OPPORTUNITIES.  The following comments or remarks provide additional information as to the rationale for selecting this conceptual alignment. PMAR is a Hilo-Puna opportunity in the same way that the Queen Kaahumanu Highway created extraordinary opportunity and the Kona-Kohala Destination!  Fortunately, much of the land is owned by various parts of the State of Hawaii and relatively few large private landowners.  While there may be some negative impacts, the planners should focus on exploiting all possible economic benefits for both the landowners and the community! The numbers correspond to the "station locations" on the full-page Hilo-Puna Alternate Roads map.


1.        HILO PIER AND OLD HILO AIRPORT.  Hilo Pier is a crucial economic destination as an export port and because of the rapidly expanding cruise ship opportunities. To present Puna in the best possible way, tours should not travel to and from destinations over the same routing. As Puna develops its potential to become a major export community, it will need efficient trucking routes to transport these goods to the pier, the air freight stations, freight marshalling yards, or transshipment centers. It is very desirable for these trucks and tour buses to travel to Puna without having to go onto Volcano Highway 11 but able to connect directly to Kamehameha Avenue (Bayfront). This routing would utilize a rarely used section of the airport apron to keep traffic off Volcano Highway. 


2.        HILO AIRPORT.  (KEKUANAOA)  As a second exit with a traffic light, vehicles from Puna will be able to access Hilo town in a number of ways.


3.        KEAUKAHA MILITARY RESERVATION (KMR).  Plans have been announced for major improvements and time is of the essence to be able to incorporate PMAR planning to dovetail with their plans. A portion of the Old Puna Trail is part of KMR but this is a negative factor and a security issue for them.  Much of the land in this area is owned by the State of Hawaii and in acquiring the PMAR easements, it may be a part of a land swap so remaining State of Hawaii and KMR properties can be reshaped to more usable shapes.  This section will require cooperation as it is preferable for PMAR to squeeze between KMR and the rock quarry rather than going makai of KMR.


4.        PUAINAKO.  This is a crucial and likely to be the largest exit. It intersects with Railroad Avenue to allow distribution of vehicles in the industrial area. It brings Puna very close to Wal-Mart, Prince Kuhio Shopping Center, Home Depot, KTA Puainako, Sack and Save, etc.  Puainako will become a major State Highway leading to Saddle Road. As such, the location of the exit would be an ideal location for a mass transit station and park and ride facility to allow those who arrive in cars to take a Hilo Shuttle to avoid having to find parking in town. Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) will be a major player to influence the PMAR alignment and this should give them good economic opportunities.


5.        KAWAILANI.  Major highways should have several exits and the existing traffic light at Kawailani makes this a natural exit.  It also provides access to Railroad Avenue to begin dispersing the expected traffic from Puna.


6.        MAKALIKA.  Another possible exit to disperse traffic.  Both Kawailani and Makalika exits will be influenced by the property plans of the State of Hawaii and DHHL.  Watermull Estate also has a large block of property near the ocean that may benefit from this exit in the future. 


7.        MACADAMIA.  Hershey, the owner-operator of the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory and Visitor Center may benefit from having a more efficient entrance. ML Partners, the successor to C. Brewer and owner of the orchards, would be impacted by 1) loss of productive orchards, 2) loss of operational efficiency due to having to run a split operation, 3) exposure to agricultural theft, etc.


                     To reduce impact, consider minimizing easement width with fencing to allow the orchard trees to serve as a promotional attractive landscaping, 2) to acquire the desirable easement width but with an agreement that only needed portions will be utilized as needed with provisions and acceptable terms that allows the owner to continue to harvest until the full width is required in the future, 3) to provide for two underpasses to reduce the impact of having to run a split operation.  And, 4) favorably consider conversion of some agriculturally zoned land to compatible higher use such as additional visitor industry agricultural promotional centers either under rezoning or special use permits.


8.        KEAAU.  Between stations #7 and #11, most of the Modified PMAR alignment passes through W. H. Shipman Ltd. property, the major landowner in the region who has embarked upon a Keaau Master Plan to create a Keaau Regional Center as well as a Keaau Village where many goods and services will be within walking or biking distance.  The block of land between Modified PMAR and Keaau should be designated urban expansion to encourage job creation closer to lower Puna.


9.        KEAAU-PAHOA HIGHWAY 130 INTERCHANGE.  Conceptually, the interchange was established at the mid-point between the traffic light adjoining Shipman Playground and the beginning of Hawaiian Paradise Park as there is sufficient open area for an interchange of two major highways.  This would be an ideal area for a major park and ride facility as well as a mass transit baseyard.  This area must be coordinated with the State Department of Transportation who are planning Keaau-Pahoa Road Improvements expected to be completed in 2017. Note that the entire Modified PMAR could include a jogging and biking path and provisions should be made for either an underpass or overpass to allow non-stop passing through this interchange. 


           KEAAU-TO-KURTISTOWN SECTION (MODIFIED PMAR).  This last remaining undeveloped corridor requires slipping between the end of Orchidland's 40th Avenue and Keaau Heights subdivision. This section is the key to creating a future high traffic volume Puna Mauka Alternate Road for serving Orchidland, Hawaiian Acres, and the mauka subdivisions as an alternative to Volcano Highway 11.  It will require a major new Volcano Highway intersection between Olaa Road and South Road and condemnation of several private parcels.  The intersection will make possible a very effective connection with the Kulani-to-Upper Hilo Alternate Road to give both upper and lower Puna a fast route to Hilo Hospital.


10.      KEAAU HEIGHTS.  It is desirable for high capacity roads to have multiple exits and the Kamehameha School intersection on Volcano Highway at Paahana Street already has a traffic light.  This exit goes through an improved subdivision and may be an ideal location to install and test traffic calming speed plateaus.


 11.      ORCHIDLAND ESTATES.  Depending upon which of the three previously mentioned alternatives is chosen, this intersection could be the key to providing an outstanding highway connection for Orchidland and Hawaiian Acres. If the subdivisions elect to hook up their private roads, more efficient grids could be created within the mauka subdivisions. 


12.      KURTISTOWN.  Creation of a major Volcano Highway 11 intersection is the major disadvantage of this alignment.  However, this is the last remaining opportunity to create a high-capacity corridor with modest condemnation of properties.  If it is allowed to connect to the "Kulani-to-Upper Hilo Alternate Road"  a large part of Puna will have greatly reduced travel time to Saddle Road or Hilo Hospital.


           KULANI-TO-UPPER HILO ALTERNATE ROAD.  While this road alignment is being introduced as part of this study, it has a far lower priority than Modified PMAR and it will be the responsibility of our elected representatives and mayor to place it in the priority list.  Conceptually, this is really a segment of a major alternate road between Volcano and Upper Hilo that may one day be designed and constructed by the State Department of Transportation.  Such a road may one day start a mile or so Hilo side of Volcano Village to intersect with the end of North Glenwood Road, continue about 2.5 miles away from and parallel to Volcano Highway to intersect with North Kulani Road.    


13.      KULANI.  State Department of Transportation will be improving the Kulani Volcano Highway intersection in the near future.  This directly connects with Stainback Highway.


14.      STAINBACK .  This part of Kulani Prison Road would need modest improvements.  About two miles would be used.


15.      KUPULAU.   Station #15 is where the extension of Hilo's Kupulau Road would intersect with Stainback Highway.  Somewhere between Station #15 and #16, there may be a connection between the Keaau development and Kupulau. In the past, most discussion about this corridor focused on connecting with Komohana Street.  However it has become too developed and too costly and there's consensus building for a Kupulau connection in upper Hilo. 


16.      PUAINAKO.  Current Saddle Road construction is concentrating on Puainako.


17.      HILO HOSPITAL. This is the most often destination mentioned.  Perhaps one day there may be a need to continue to connect to the Hamakua Coast. 





            1.     VOLCANO HIGHWAY 11 BETWEEN HILO AND KEAAU IS THE ONLY MAJOR HIGHWAY AND IT WOULD BE A MAJOR DISASTER IF IT BECAME BLOCKED!  Single corridors are sometimes needed as on the islands of Kauai, Maui, Oahu and Molokai where topography dictates a single basic corridor. 










                     PHASE II CONNECTIONS TO MODIFIED PMAR.  Besides giving the Hilo-Puna general traffic flow and large capacity alternate, the Modified PMAR alignment is strategically positioned to receive the largely "north-south" traffic flow of lower Puna, but also the generally "east-west" traffic flow of upper Puna.  Before any private subdivision roads are connected to the new highway, it is recommended that Hawaii County Private Subdivision Policy be established. 


                     If one subdivision is connected to a public highway, there should be a principle that subdivisions farther out should be allowed through their subdivision.  There should be agreements as to whether the roads will be fully public, fully private, or with control and maintenance responsibilities spelled out.  With significant continuing traffic, it is not appropriate to call these emergency roads or to allow gates. 


                     Connecting private subdivision roads to Modified PMAR will be covered under "Phase II: Alternate roads through Private Subdivisions." One solution will address Hawaiian Paradise Park. A second will address Hawaiian Acres and Orchidland.  Solutions for the other subdivisions will depend upon initial agreements.




           1.        HAWAIIAN PARADISE PARK.   This subdivision of 1-acre lots has expressed the desire to remain rural and it is not appropriate to force a high-speed highway through it. From Modified PMAR, on land acquired from Shipman, build connector roads in the area of the former railroad easement.  A "Manifold Collector Road" would branch out with the following initially connected: Beach road, 3rd, 7th, 11th, 15th, 19th, 23rd, and 27th. By connecting 8 roads (4 roads apart) at the same time, traffic will be sufficiently dispersed and no need for condemnation as HPP easements should be adequate. The County should pave Beach Road and make recreational improvements to justify use of public funds.  Shipman will benefit by having improved access to a future resort area.


                     Under this plan, the roads within HPP could continue to be private. HPP should consider installing concrete "speed plateaus" every quarter mile on these pass-through roads to effectively control speeds.  Traffic calming speed plateaus can be engineered to match any speed limit.  If set at 25-mph or 35-mph, it is likely that potential pass-through traffic will opt to use Keaau-Pahoa Highway 130 or the Hawaiian Acres - Orchidland Parkway and go 55-mph. Through traffic would be allowed at whichever roads are indirectly connected to PMAR.  


                     FINAL 11TH HOUR REVISION.  As this plan was nearing final stage, there was a recommendation for a collector road connecting Keaau-Pahoa Highway 130 to the connector road on Shipman property outside of HPP.   Shower Drive would be blocked from entering Hwy 130 so the intersection would be only Pohaku Circle. Shower Drive would remain private and HPP roads would continue through Shower to the connector road.  This would improve and distribute the HPP flow into PMAR and most of HPP traffic would not enter Hwy 130. This will reduce pressure on Hwy 130 as HPP traffic is a significant percentage of the traffic on Hwy 130.


           2.        HAWAIIAN ACRES - ORCHIDLAND PARKWAY.   While it is not appropriate to create a single high-speed high-volume freeway through HPP, each side of the boundary between Hawaiian Acres and Orchidland are 3-acre parcels in a region still sparsely populated. County should consider acquiring one acre from each lot under eminent domain condemnation to create a wide green-belted corridor for a future divided multi-lane 55-mph limited access highway. Fewer land owners are impacted with remaining 2-acre lots still being nicely usable.


                     To off-set the negative impact, the county shall utilize this corridor to bring water and electricity to the area with impacted property owners provided some form or incentive treatment or rates. On the mauka end, the highway will utilize part of Olaa Road, and then veer to the Modified PMAR near the Kurtistown Volcano Highway intersection. On the makai end, the highway would cut through Ainaloa and additional condemnation/property acquisition will be needed. But using the same principle of trying not to splinter a subdivision, the alignment can be adjusted to go over the boundary between Hawaiian Acres and Ainaloa to keep Ainaloa intact and to incorporate a portion of the Puna Emergency Access Road (PEAR).


                     The Hawaiian Acres - Orchidland Parkway would serve as an access road for the proposed 500 - 1,000-acre Pahoa Community, Business & Industrial Park above Pahoa Town. It will continue to connect to Kalapana Road. This Hawaiian Acres - Orchidland Parkway would serve as an alternative to Keaau-Pahoa Hwy 130. While it may begin as a 2-lane road, as usage builds, it can be expanded to the standard of Volcano Highway between Hilo and Keaau. The boards of Hawaiian Acres, Orchidland, and Ainaloa will have the responsibility of working with Hawaii County.

                     Orchidland may make a very straightforward decision and to connect whichever roads currently connect to Keaau-Pahoa Highway 130. Hawaiian Acres have an avowed policy to not welcome public roads through their private subdivision. Will they decide to connect B, C, D, E, and F or will they continue to use their current roads only? If they connect will they cooperate with allowing Fern Forest and other mauka subdivisions to connect and create multiple through roads?    


                     CONCLUSION.   Modified Puna Makai Alternative Road should be fast tracked to precede the State Department of Transportation's Improvements to Keaau-Pahoa Road tentatively scheduled for completion in 2017 if possible.  


                     I've led making public PMAR proposals that began with a single highway going through 15th and caught the full brunt of the HPP outrage!  I saw the heat drop when I recommended that PMAR stop short of HPP and connect with Hwy. 130 at Shower Drive and this was adopted in the Puna Regional Circulation Plan's final report.  So although I know HPP would rather not allow Beach Road to be improved, I believe they recognize that it is a public road and would likely grudgingly support it to attain the network of connector and collector roads to access PMAR.  At this point there seems to be very little heat left.  I recommend that with the exception of Hawaiian Acres-Orchidland Parkway, that all roads in the subdivisions continue to be private and that the subdivision associations and the County continue to build stronger working relationships.


                     Orchidland-Hawaiian Acres is now beginning to assess the situation.  It may be very suitable to only hook up Orchidland's 40th Avenue and adopt a wait-and-see position.  If the Pahoa Community, Business, and Industrial Park become a reality, there would be stronger justification for first modifying PEAR and later building a full-scale Hawaiian Acres-Orchidland Parkway. If so, Puna will be well along in resolving their economic and transportation challenges!


                     I am pleased and proud to be the "coordinator or presenter" for this informal group of individuals.  Some were very upset with my early drawings, moved to neutral when PMAR didn't enter their subdivision, but raised hell when the Hawaiian Acres- Orchidland Parkway was introduced.  But I believe that as long as we talk and try to make improvements that one day all of Puna will benefit! 


                     MAHALO AND ALOHA!  

              ~~~ David W. Fukumoto (February 11, 2007)                 ________________________________________________________________


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