• 04 Nov 2009 /  news, politics 60 Comments

    Keaau Junction(A version of this story appears in the Nov. 4, 2009 edition of the Big Island Weekly.)

    By Tiffany Edwards Hunt

    The darkening sky highlights the stream of headlights that stretch along Highway 130 from the Humane Society to the Kea’au High School football stadium.  It’s the evening of Oct. 21 in Puna at the bottleneck, and the Kea’au=Pahoa Advisory Group is on a field trip with Department of Transportation (DOT) officials, SSFM consultants, and roundabout consultant Michael Wallwork, of the Australia-based Alternate Street Designs.

    Wallwork, set to offer state officials and consultants a recommendation on how roundabouts can aid key intersections along Highway 130, gets a good look of the problem before heading to the Kea’au Elementary School cafeteria to make a presentation.

    While hundreds are lined up in their vehicles on the highway a stone’s throw away, just a few regulars are at the meting in which Wallwork provides the KPAG group, transportation officials, consultants details on how roundabouts can aid in traffic flow and efficiency.kpag 1“Change is slow, even for us, maybe even especially for us, but we are considering (roundabouts),” Jiro Sumada, deputy director of the state Department of Transportation tells the small crowd when introducing Wallwork as the guest speaker.

    Roundabouts are “an island you have to drive around,” which can be big or small, “plain or pretty,” with unusual shapes and landscaping, containing trees, clocks, even statues, Wallwork describes. He notes there are “less conflict points,” or areas susceptible to a car crash, illustrating with a diagram how there are 32 conflict points at an intersection and only eight on a roundabout.

    “There are no left-turn or t-bone crashes, which are typical for an intersection,” Wallwork says.

    Many towns and cities worldwide are replacing signalized intersections with roundabouts — like Victoria, Aus., which replaced all its intersection with roundabouts, and La Jolla, Calif., which installed five roundabouts to lower speeds and facilitate bicyclists and pedestrians and “turned an ugly road into a pretty road,” Wallwork says.

    “Your presentation tonight is really educating me on roundabouts,” KPAG member Manny Mattos tells Wallwork.  He isn’t the only one in the group that finds Wallwork’s presentation favoring roundabouts convincing.

    kpag 5KPAG members Hunter Bishop, the mayor’s public information officer, and Neil Erickson, a Hilo architect, were both persuaded.

    Erickson tells Wallwork he came to the KPAG group as a cycling advocate and noted Highway 130 is a highway in which people “don’t want to slow down.”

    “One of the biggest reasons why people don’t like roundabouts is that you have to slow down,” Wallwork reasons.  “Consider an intersection where you have to stop.  With a roundabout, it’s only for a few seconds, and you feel a lot better because you’re moving, rather than staying static at a stop light.”

    “During your presentation, I sketched a whole bunch for Downtown Hilo,” Erickson says, adding, “I like the idea for in town.”

    “I like the idea of roundabouts,” Bishop says after the meeting. “They may be solutions for some intersections.  It’s definitely the solution for Old Government Road and Kahakai Boulevard.”

    KPAG and DOT’s effort to improve 9.5 miles of Highway 130, otherwise known as Kea’au-Pahoa Road, comes as a result of a complaint made to the Federal Highways Administration by a group of Puna residents who felt tax dollars were not being spent equitably nor were solutions being sought from the people affected by the road improvements, according to Ginny Aste, who was among the group and a co-author of the 1993 Puna Community Development Plan that highlight Puna’s traffic problems.

    Sumada says a little over $1.7 million is being spent on the Kea’au-Pahoa Road Improvements Project, including:

    — $250,000 for “context sensitive solution,” which means the KPAG group working with SSFM consultants

    —     $203,000 for “alternatives analysis”

    —      $180,000 for a topographic survey

    —     $160,000 for preliminary engineering

    —     $451,780 for technical studies such as traffic, air, noise, cultural, botany, hydrology, and social impacts

    —     $250,000 for the draft environmental assessment and associated public hearings

    —     $217,220 for the final environmental assessment

    “It doesn’t seem like they’re moving fast enough,” Bishop says of DOT officials and consultants working for them.  He has been involved with the KPAG group since February.  KPAG has held eight meetings since last fall, according to Sumada.

    “I hate to say that, but when you’re talking about safety and traffic in your neighborhood, Bishop says, conceding, “They’re not ignoring us, we got their attention.  They’re more aware of the problem than they ever have been.  I look forward to the county and state working together.  I would encourage more cooperation between the state and county.”

    KeaauPahoaMapv2Indeed, talking with KPAG members Oct. 21, Sumada alludes to the fact that the county and state are not the only ones not communicating as well as they could be..  Sumada tells the KPAG group that the Engineering Division has twice asked the Traffic Division to participate in KPAG meetings on Highway 130, and both times did not get a response.

    Meanwhile, while there is some information about the Kea’au-Pahoa Road Improvements Project posted on the internet at keaau-pahoa.com, the greater Puna community appears to be unaware that an improvement project is underway and taking public input.

    At least two Puna women aren’t aware of the KPAG group, the Oct. 21 bus ride and meeting in Kea’au, or the $1.7 million to come up with an improvement plan.

    “I think they should put in roundabouts,” says stay-at-home mom Emi Leatherman Hunt, before learning the Oct. 21 KPAG meeting she missed included a roundabout presentation.  “They are so much easier and I think the cost of putting them in would be a lot less than making a frontage road and trying to put in signal lights.  It keeps the traffic flowing. They’ve existed for centuries in Europe, and they work fabulously.”

    “They should have thought about infrastructure before HPP blew up, because a majority of the traffic morning and night is coming from HPP,” says Felicia Frazer-Harms, an Aloha Coast Realtor, upon learning about DOT’s improvement project and the Oct. 21 meeting she missed.

    She notes DOT’s first priority should be a roundabout or signal light at “the Malama Market intersection,” where Pahoa Village Road and Highway 130 intersect.

    The second priority should be mitigating the bottleneck at the Highway 130 and Kea’au=Pahoa Road intersection, Frazer-Harms suggests, noting a reversible lane should be implemented on weekdays to eliminate the bottleneck. “Someone needs to go out there with the orange cones every morning and every night” to change the traffic pattern on that road like they do for Waianuenue Avenue in Hilo on school days, she says.

    Frazer-Harms also suggests DOT “extend the double lane from Shower Drive to the Maku’u entrance of HPP” and “make more right-hand and left-hand turn lanes or make existing ones longer, so you can ease on and off the highway easier.”

    Bishop notes that there are “simpler solutions than lights at every corner” and that it is not feasible to put in signal lights at every intersection along the highway.

    Erickson says roundabouts-versus-signalization is a minor detail in the improvement project. KPAG, DOT and SSFM consultants need to set in stone which intersections will have a signal light or roundabout, and proceed with getting the environmental assessment completed.

    “Money is earmarked for this project,” Erickson says.  “If we don’t spend it, we lose it.  I don’t think state Highways would give a damn.”

    “Time is of the essence,” says Bishop. “Accidents happen everyday.”

    Posted by Tiffany Edwards Hunt @ 3:59 am

    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

60 Responses

  • G Dalton Says:

    Roundabouts on a major feeder road? 55/65 mph down to 20 mph now thats going to be a adventure. I can see evening traffic back to KTA and taking 1 & 1/2 hrs. These things need size how much property is needed to be taken. This is going to need some very good traffic engineering expertize to work and if not a lot of money wasted with a even bigger traffic mess. Malama market/ Hilo maybe, Hwy 130 bad idea.

  • G Dalton Says:

    Better idea run Orchidlands 37 & 40 st through to Keaau town. Open Railway or another route from HPP. Open smaller subdivisions connection routes, take the load off hwy 130. If a large disaster hits all those large power poles down across Hwy 130 is going to be a very large problem.

  • Tiffany Edwards Hunt Says:

    I would agree with G. Dalton on the need to create other routes through the subdivisions. I also agree with those looking at roundabouts. We should do both, more access routes and improved intersections… All we need are extended turn lanes and roundabouts at these intersections. We need yellow paint big-time…
    G-Dalton, you’re concerned about going from 50 to 20 mph — imagine going to a complete stop for a signal light at Kaloli, Orchidland and/or Maku’u? That is an idea on the table… I would think slowing down with a roundabout is better than a complete stop with a signal light. And we can make them pretty, with a bus stop. lanscaping. ped crossing. You name it — a Monkeypod, a clock, a palm tree… The cluster of palm trees with the lava rock Pahoa sign at the entrance to Pahoa could be made into a roundabout… Slap on some yellow paint marking the area in which vehicles are to slow down, and imagine fewer crashes at our problem intersections. Chant with me, r – o – u – n – d – a – b – o – u – t.

  • James Weatherford Says:

    It is so true what Tiff points out:
    for a ‘stop’ light, that means 0mph.

    The perception of what roundabouts actually are is so often, including in this case, confused with reality.
    It is truly the lack of familiarity.
    There is nothing about the the current 55 mph speed limit on Hwy 130 that precludes very good benefits from roundabouts.

  • Keola Childs Says:

    This a political choice: (1) improve safety of existing highway by either signal lights a roundabout, or (2) get the alternate routes open/started as suggested above. The second choice is way better for everyone.

    If “the people” allow all the current planning and funding “energy” to be spent planning, designing, bidding, fighting over bids, and building these roundabouts (which are great in and of themselves), we risk losing the bureaucratic time, energy and focus to get the really important stuff done: getting control of the alternate routes as necessary and getting the preliminary design work done.

    Yes, the County will get around to the alternate routes “eventually,” but – why wait 5 – 10 years more (when has a new paved road ever taken less time?), after the roundabouts are built and critiqued? If we just buckle down to the ugly chore of getting the alternate routes done, the problem with the main highway is ameliorated for at least 10 more years of growth; at THAT time, after alternate routes are open, signal lights may be the better choice for that main route! (E.g, high speed emergency vehicles wouldn’t have to slow down for the roundabouts).

    I hope Puna asks for these roundabouts to be built on the alternate routes’ main intersections, not on Hwy 130, and demands action on the alternate routes. Yes, there’s a risk nothing at all will happen as government may choose to play “passive-aggressive” as it often does. But I do believe it WILL increase the timetable of getting the alternate routes built.

  • Tom Lackey Says:

    Alternate roads to Hilo-Pahoa will happen some day, but the crashes are happing on highway #130 today and somebody is going to die soon.

    Roundabouts are safe and require little maintenance [this the HDOT dose not like] HDOT likes and wants lots of signal lights, they are very expensive and require lots of maintenance.
    Something as simple as a roundabout [build it and forget it] is just out of the question. HDOT need more job security for their engineers and
    signal intersections provide this for them.
    Don’t let logic get in the way of civil servant security, last thing we want is to reduce tax’s and get rid of a bunch civil engineers draining the states war chest.

    The Lack

  • G Dalton Says:

    Roundabout traffic is going to be similar to what we have at the two lane one lane merge past Keaau high. Ok in light traffic a bitch in afternoon.
    Another problem on roundabouts is the diameter of the circle. At least four corner property are going to have to be acquired and thats a slow process. The center island can not be obstructed you need to see other traffic. Traffic signals are computer controlled with cameras looking for breaks. New computer lights sense traffic flow from up and down stream and adjust. Roundabouts have a place but they are hard to drive, you got to pay attention and thats in short supply here. But up side is all our racers into drifting are going to have a blast.

  • James Weatherford Says:

    Mr Dalton,

    You seem pleased to say a lot regarding that which know so little about.

    First, the center island is irrelevant to seeing the traffic that needs to be seen. As Mr Wallwork pointed out, entering a roundabout requires the driver to take the same action as on making a right turn to exit a driveway — look for traffic to the left.
    Next, the size of the diameter depends on several variables — lanes, speed, and type of traffic. What is predictable is that roundabouts use some more space immediately in the intersection and signals result in more space being used in the approach with turn lanes, pocket lanes, entry lanes, and exit lanes. Signals frequently require more total space than do roundabouts.
    Besides extreme increases in safety — meaning less loss of life, less trauma and fewer injuries and health costs, less cost for emergency services, and less cost for car insurance — roundabouts also reduce gasoline use and air pollution and they cost less to build and to maintain. Like Tom said, roundabouts cut out the people who make money selling and maintaining signals lights and leave much of that money in Tom’s pocket and yours and mine. And, there is the electricity: when it’s not on the signalized intersection is a deathtrap and the roundabout works just the like it does otherwise. Does the electricity ever go off in Puna?

  • James Weatherford Says:

    Keola Childs,

    Very much in agreement with you that an alternative route between Puna and Hilo is needed.

    In the current situation, there is not a trade off between roundabouts on Highway 130 and an alternative route between Puna and Hilo.

    As Tom says, people are dying and roundabouts can turn that around in less than two years.
    Although I have done much research — reading and talking to people with experience as well as driving in roundabouts in Australia and New Zealand — I continue to learn more.
    For example, in his presentation Mr Wallwork pointed out cases where roundabouts were built from the outside in resulting in reduced disruption to traffic all the while providing drivers the chance to learn how to maneuver the roundabout even as it was being built so that by the time the roundabout was completed local drivers were already accustomed to it.

    Keep this in mind, please: until the presentation about which Tiff writes above, the prevailing mindset was to widen Highway 130 and use signal lights at more than one intersection. There is a problem (unacknowledged to date by DOT and/or by proponents of the prevailing mindset): such major work on Highway 130 will cause horrific traffic disruption for years because there is not an alternative route between Puna and Hilo.

  • hpp Says:

    I shouldn’t, but I just have to I’m laughing too hard.
    I agree with Dalton, and Eric and James I’ve talked to you guys face to face about this. On a bike of course I’d want circles. Driving a car, on this island where everyone is racing to be first to the next light, lol. You want them to what? Drive in circles?
    They don’t even know what merge means. We don’t have EDUCATED drivers!

    This is not Europe, where people HAVE BEEN, using them for thousands of years.

    You think I-30 is a problem now? LMFAO
    I only drive that road between certain hours because I’m tired of idiots waiting for you to get close enough so they can pull out in front of you to slow you down to their 20 mph …ah I think I’ll pull into traffic speed….,personally I think they’re all tweakin.

    I KNOW, very few people on these roads ever learned the art of defensive driving, “watch out for the other guy”? anticipate they’ll do something stupid.
    Last time I renewed my DL the lady there told the old man in front of me, who was having a hard time with the eye test, she says to him, “well guess”.

    It’s the nature of the beast. Really we need more oneway streets like the Hilo-Keaau devided highway.
    Driving head on towards people who rarely, if ever check the air in their tires, let alone belt seperation,(which will pull them into your lane), coming at you with only a 4″ wide yellow strip of paint and fate stopping your death on any given day.

    The Makuu merge lane is amazingly nice, only they don’t have a right turn only lane from Makuu to that lane, who designed that? Why aren’t Paradise (the name sake of the culdesac) and Kaloli the same? How did the once a week flea market get a deluxe intersection? $$$$$?

    Who’s designing what for whom? All these meetings and hearings not known about by the general population.
    But not for the inspiration of those with “spare” time on their hands to “plan” our “future”, we would be lost.

    Face it, with 8800 lots in HPP,it’s destined to be the “bedroom community” for the “future”, Hilo.
    The P.M.A.R. Plan? Cutting HPP into quaters? Another
    bad idea.

    What’s a GOOD idea?

    Here’s one for ya. I gave it to a candidate last election too, he didn’t win. Should of used the idea.

    Railroad Ave. Still meanders through HPP. And it
    went all the way to town once upon a time. We have the techonology to put in a QUIET, SOLAR, ELECTRIC or HYDROGEN train like in Santa Cruz and other cities world wide, GOOGLE Solar/Hydro/Electric trains.
    Here let me help……





    And picture this in an EMERGENCY EVACUATION!!!!!!

    A. all the roads clogged with cars like rush hour times 10. Everyone being peaceful and driving with aloha, yea ah huh.


    B. A indepentedly powered train with dozens of rail cars taking people and pets out and bringing equiptment and recsue/safety personel in.

    I’d ride a quiet train to town, especially if it went all the way to down town. It did used to go all the way to Lapahoehoe.

    See ya there at the end of the month Eric.
    James. how’d that thing work out with your domestic?


  • hpp Says:

    In resopnse to James last post. I too have driven in round abouts, traffic circles and the autobahn. The last was the safest because it was devided.

    And the traffic lights can be syncronized to a certain speed, so that those doing just under the limit would make all green lights. Like Hwy.1 in San Francisco, where 30-40 lights in a row take you no more or less time to go through if you aren’t racing between them.

    Not rocket science.

    We get round abouts?, I’m welding a steel bumper around my car so when the learning curve for everyone who never has negociated one can play bumper cars.

    And Dalton’s right about the drifters, it’s going to be real loud if you are unfortunate to live near where, the “planners” plan to plop these things.

    Where would round abouts work?
    In undeveloped lands, infastructure first then houses.
    da red road?
    All of HPP is developing ah….kapa kahi.
    I won’t even go into the garbage that’s being built and dumped in here.

  • hpp Says:

    Tif, what happened to my first post with all the alternative ideas?

  • Tiffany Edwards Hunt Says:

    I’ll check the SPAM folder.

  • G Dalton Says:

    Railroad ave was a railroad, the roadbeds still there. The problem is getting every one on the same page. Here in Hawaii thats near impossible. Small group opposed can hold up things forever. Ive driven RB’s and going inside to out you have to watch for outer lane car thats not behind you. About 6 yrs ago traffic count was 13,000 cars coming and going thats got to be double by now, RB’s going to look like the picture on the top of this post. Y not put in couple of temp. signals to break up the stream. All I see evening is a line of headlights going off Keaau looking like some giant snake with nary a gap. That train/tram looking better and better.

  • Tom Says:

    I’ve said it before, but I am very skeptical about the effect roundabouts will have on H130. There was a point made earlier about slowing down rather than stopping but in the rush hour you will be stopping when you approach a roundabout because the traffic in front of you will have stopped as well. All you need is the odd poor driver and you’ll get a backup (anyone familiar with “The Physics of Traffic Jams”?).

    Roundabouts work well in Europe, I’m not convinced they will work here but I’ll change my mind if someone can convince me they will. In any case, if H130 gets blocked then no amount of roundabouts will help. You need at least one other route between Puna and Hilo, preferably two.

    What I hope doesn’t happen here is what happened in the UK a couple of decades ago before I moved here, which was a horrible compromise. Many roundabouts in the UK now have traffic lights as well. Try and imagine that with your typical Big Island driver.


  • James Weatherford Says:

    The concerns about roundabouts slowing traffic is simply uninformed speculation by armchair engineers who have not driven in modern roundabouts — and modern roundabouts are traffic circles.
    In the real world where modern roundabouts are really used — rural, suburban, city — traffic moves with less delay.
    Please look at the facts.

  • James Weatherford Says:

    error above: modern roundabouts are NOT traffic circles.

  • hpp Says:

    and we’re not talking about the “OUTBACK”, or say an area of unpopulated, undeveloped land to squeeze them in.
    This tiny 9 mile funnel needs to be widened and seperated not plugged up with marbles. You don’t sit at the left turn only lane going into Keaau when Makai traffic subsides, the left arrow comes on again.
    You can program light, you won’t be able to reprogram this population. You are not realistic. It’s a groovy idea, but it’s pie in the sky.
    It WON”T work. Half the drivers have no insurance, unsafe cars and were taught to drive by uncle.

    This is PUNA,
    Railroad and Beach would have been made alternate routes if they were on the Kona side.

  • James Weatherford Says:

    Aloha, “hpp”.

    May you go in peace, and along the way find the guts to use a real name and real world facts.

  • hpp Says:

    guts? when I saw you court you didn’t seemed concerned about my guts. But you know who I am by my words James. I feel for you, I know how you wish we’d all revert to Hawaiian farming as you try to do. But you are a rare bird and as I was wondering where the D-9 sound was coming from today, I need only remember back to 1999 to recall how vacant HPP was.

    Now and in the future, things will go as they always do and that’s the way of the dollar.
    If you want to see engineering design at it’s sillyiest, just look at how the Keaau by-pass was built. The right turn on to the Keaau-Hilo Highway intersection should have been blended better than a double lane right turn. Design genius!
    Who’s gonna design these round-abouts?

    You can’t reteach an entire population to drive to suit a few. Old people will be confused, others impaitent, most in a hurry, the fender benders?????

    Only 8 points possible for accidents you said, was that 8 possible points around your car?
    What are they going to have, public service announcements showing people how to use these donuts? At some sort of efficent capacity? What about those of us who don’t watch TV? Or buy into the reinvention of the wheel.

    We just need better designers and preplanners.
    Greener thinkers, not reactionists.

  • Tom Says:

    Dear James Weatherford,

    Although I have no vote at the moment it’s likely I will by fall 2010. I believe you are considering running for some county position around that time.

    I will not vote for you for one simple reason – you insult people.

    I have no idea what your problem is with hpp, but I can assure you I know what it’s like to drive with a highway system full of roundabouts and witnessed the problems they caused with drivers that are more skilled than your typical Puna driver. That’s why they put traffic lights on the roundabouts.

    Are you really confident about your comment that roundabouts do not slow traffic? I’m sure you’re not an armchair engineer so instead of telling everyone to look at the facts you’ll be able to produce them right now. Won’t you?

    Roundabouts will not help if H130 is blocked as it has been in the past. The first thing *must* be to create an alternative route between Puna and Hilo.

    An armchair engineer.

    Tom Kerr

  • Tom Says:

    By the way, being an armchair engineer, I’m just curious how the roundabouts on H130 will be built *without* a massive amount of disruption and traffic delays.

    I’ve not been able to attend the relevant meetings due to work, but James, you must have thought about this and presented your plan – at the very least thought about it. Any chance of a precis?


  • don Says:

    as for taking cars off 130 through hpp. 28th is used as a bypass and it is a NIGHTMARE for people who live on it now. We want BIG speed bumps. This is a private road and the cops have given out tickets for 65mph +. The county dropped the ball and just let it happen to the dismay of residents who live there.

  • hpp Says:

    I don’t know why the people on 28th would be dismayed when you paint a line down a road people speed up. If it was one way and NOT RESIDENTIAL it would be a frontage rd only to shower just passing the back up down the street.

    Not POOR planning, NO PLANNING, just more of the same. Last HPPOA meeting I went to had the guy responsible for the current paving I think, he took off as soon as it opened up for questions, but before he did I asked him why are just these four roads being paved through, is this part of the P.M.A.R. Plan?



    he replied. “I’m not familiar with that plan I’ll check into it for you.”

    Check into it for me? I’ve read it. This guy is following plans he’s unaware of? Ya sure.
    The designer in Kurtistown need not plan for HPP when he doesn’t have to deal with the mess he’ll create.

    Gary Saffarik came out to HPP one meeting back then to see how 15th would be recieved as a corridior and was blasted by everyone who showed up.

    James, you’re gonna run for office???

    RIGHT TURN ONLY LANES THE TOP OF EACH OF MAKUU. PARADISE, KALOLI AND SHOWER would help people MERGE into traffic and help with the back up, told them about that years ago. SIMPLE SOLUTIONS WHILE THEY PUT A TRAIN/TROLLEY/STREETCAR on RAILROAD.

    Ever been to New Orleans? those open air street cars, are older than the cable cars in S.F. and still doing a better job than all the buses built to drive around them over the past 100+ years.

  • hpp Says:

    “By the way, being an armchair engineer”, that I am, I build what I design. And my work is on four corners of this rock as well as hpp. From the cliffs over looking Waipio, to Honoka’a, to Papa’aloa, to Na’alehu, to Hawi and here as else where in other states. My arm chair is where most the work gets done.

  • Rob Tucker Says:

    Anything considered or proposed to be built on Hwy. 130 will cause massive disruption and delay.

  • James Weatherford Says:

    Aloha Tom,

    Thanks for your straight talk.
    That’s what I like to hear and intend to speak.
    As you would recall, your advice some months ago was to not be “p.c.”.
    For a public discussion, like here, I just want two things, and they both amount to honesty:
    First to know who I am discussing with; and, Second, no b.s. in what is being discussed.
    In fact, as an elected official I’ll be glad to expect to know who the County is getting its information from and will expect that to be a credible source.

    Now, about my sources.
    Here is a starter sample…


    Bared J. Roundabouts: Improving road safety and Increasing Capacity, TR News, July-August 1997.

    Brilon W, Vendhey M. Roundabouts – The State of the Art in Germany, ITE Journal, November 1998:48-54.

    Hyden C, Varhelyi A. The effects on safety, time consumption and environment of large scale use of roundabouts in an urban area: a case study, Accident Analysis & Prevention 2000;32:11-23.

    Kirschbaum JB, Alexson PW, Longmuir PE, Mispagel KM, Stein JA, Yamada DA. Designing Sidewalks and Trails for Access, Part II of II: Best Practices Design Guide, Federal Highway Administration, September 2001.

    Myers EJ. Modern Roundabouts for Maryland, ITE Journal, October 1994:18-22.

    Ourston L, Hall GA. Roundabouts Increase Interchange Capacity, ITE Journal, December 1997:30-36 (http://www.tfhrc.gov/pubrds/fall95/p95a41.htm).

    Persaud BN, Retting RA, Garder PE, Lord D. Crash reduction following installation of roundabouts in the United States, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, March 2000.

    Robinson BW, Rodegerdts L, Scarborough W, Kittelson W et al. Roundabouts: An Informational Guide, Federal Highway Administration, June 2000.

    Safe Pedestrians and a Walkable America: Pedestrian Forum, Federal Highway Administration, vol 22, Fall/Winter 2002.

  • James Weatherford Says:

    …and more…

    from http://www.ncdot.gov/doh/preconstruct/tpb/SHC/pdf/US64_Intersection_Options_Primer.pdf:

    “For many years the preferred method of improving signalized corridors has been to provide additional capacity by adding additional lanes to the facility. Studies have shown that this method can be very costly and have diminishing returns. This issue has caused a new line of thinking to emerge with
    alternative methods being considered to improve the operations of intersections without adding additional
    through lanes.”

    from http://www.iihs.org/research/qanda/roundabouts.html:

    “Because roundabouts improve the efficiency of traffic flow, they also reduce vehicle emissions and fuel consumption.”

  • G Dalton Says:

    So I am an armchair engineer,
    45 yrs of running a engineering co. My father was here 1920- 40s selling heavy duty sugar cane equipment.They built Grandfathers high strength steels and mud pump designs, opened up the oil drilling fields, and the first two atomic bombs only worked by using his steel casing.
    I spent time doing major engineering design work for JAC, fixing the James Clark telescope problems up on the mountain. We are now designing machinery to chew up blue rock to make good roads in the 65 miles of road we maintain. R/Bs are a stupid idea and all you are doing is slowing down the process of getting 130 fixed. Do the math.

  • Rob Tucker Says:

    The Federal Government will pay 100% of the cost of roundabouts.

    Do the math.

  • James Weatherford Says:

    Mr Dalton,

    Wow! You sure claim to be an engineer. I’ll concede that.

    The road engineers who have done roundabouts have plenty of real successes to point to that show this intersection design alternative to be anything but “stupid”.

    The people who really stand to lose from roundabouts are those folks who make money from signal lights. Including the engineers, without armchairs, who work for the companies who sell signal lights and who are too indolent to look at new and proven ways of doing things.

  • James Weatherford Says:
  • hpp Says:

    Do the MATH??? well 100% of your Castleblock house engeneering, Rob Tucker still sits a unfinished shell a block away from me, still waiting for someone to buy that “technology” made from polystyrene foam blocks dipped in who knows what? oh yea we did , find out… let me find that..not sure if it will take you there but GOOGLE will. Castleblock THASTYRON.pdf


    yea here Polostyrene Beads reused in our petrie dish of an enviorment. GENIUS! But what happens when they crumble as they are now around the corner and the winds take those little white polystyrene beads in the wind into some endangered spiecies bird and kills it?

    R/A are along the same lines. They will bottle neck and stop traffic to a grinding halt. I can’t imagine being stuck between to circles that are jammed up, then where you going to go?

    OR wait 30 years like Oahu did and have it cost more than 10 times it would now, and hell let’s just wait untill the Park fills up.

    And James you didn’t answer the question of how are you going to re-educate the population to dive these donuts, gonna have a practice one at the airport? a buck a try? Sign a waiver? Half or more of this islands driving,population, can’t parrallel park!

  • Tom Says:

    G Dalton – I currently work at the JAC, have done so for a number of years now. Your name isn’t familiar so perhaps we didn’t overlap, but in any case, thanks for fixing the JCMT!


  • N.G. Says:

    Dear Rob tucker,

    I sincerely hope the government will pay for all the accidents, medical bills, and repairs as well.

  • Tom Says:

    James Weatherford,

    Can you please explain to us why the roundabouts in my home town of Bracknell, near London, roundabout central if you like, failed so badly that they ended up putting traffic lights on them?

    I’m not proposing traffic lights as an answer to H130’s problems, an alternative route still seems to be the answer to me since that avoids disrupting H130. But you said:

    “In the real world where modern roundabouts are really used — rural, suburban, city — traffic moves with less delay. Please look at the facts.”

    I lived in that real world for nearly 30 years, the roundabouts failed and that was without your typical Puna motorist.


  • G. Dalton Says:

    I worked back from 92 on under Simon Craig chief engineer. Did new design mods on sail cover rollers they being 400 lb with russian bearing breaking up 80 ft overhead. Also did all the design for the main dish lower track mounting system. This was so that foundation sag could be adjusted out of the tract. Engineers who work for JAC come from the host countries local engineers can only fill in between. I,m sure JCMT is still falling apart it was a cheap build to go to in South Amer. Thank for your thanks

  • Tom Says:


    The JCMT is doing pretty well at the moment and is commissioning a new and revolutionary instrument (Scuba2). In case you’re interested, Simon is back and is once again the chief engineer and is doing a fine job.

    Yep, you were there before I started working at the JAC but not before my first visit, so we may have crossed paths long ago. I work for the other JAC telescope!

    Incidentally, things may have changed a little, we employ many engineers and technicians from the US these days (and Hawaii) although there are still some from the host countries, one or two I’m sure you worked with in the 90s!

    All the best,

  • Rob Tucker Says:

    To HPP,

    Any time you might like to know about Castleblock materials and methods I would be happy to oblige, just give a call, though it is quite off topic here.

    To N.G.,

    Not being naturally attracted to roundabouts I had to do a fair bit of research and was very impressed to find out that roundabouts have a well documented history, as regards accidents and safety, of reducing accidents by something like 75% and the severity of accidents substantially as well. Massively safer than a signalized intersection with people running red lights – sometimes at high speed.

    Your concerns would be comfortably addressed I believe if you were to find out the facts. I am pleased that HDOT appears to finally be examining the facts instead of simply being opposed without knowledge.

    Lastly. Regarding the education period… the act of training people on their use. The presenter at the KPAC meeting, Michael Wallwork, explained that the process of building a roundabout on an existing roadway takes some months during which traffic is routed, under the guidance of police traffic control. By the time they and the rest of the road improvements, are complete people know how they work.

    Also interesting was a statistic that prior to installation 68% of people hated the idea of roundabouts and a year after completion 73% loved them. So we each have an opportunity to learn it seems.

    In every gauge and measure of public priority for Hwy. 130 the top demand was for safety. All of us are sick and tired of the deaths and injuries. That is the reason roundabouts are under consideration. They demonstrate an ability to solve the number one issue our local citizens are concerned with.

  • hpp Says:

    round and round and round she goes where she stops noboby knows.
    Tucker, are you SERIOUS? that’s the PLAN? teach the public how to used these r/bs with construction driving-police guided road delays?
    What? the paving one lane at a time,on the Hilo Keaau devided highway DIDN’T show how traffic will back up all the way to KTA???

    I30 and that’s not a typo, (Intrastate 30), is and will be bigger and wider because it’s the only way to get mass amounts of single driver cars on the road.

    You want to clean the thing up CARPOOLANE too many people drive alone. BUT the reason I30 has the problem it because it’s the ONLY way to get from here to there without going the long mauka way around.

    You can’t fight progress, (look at Honolulu) it’s gonna happen. It’s gonna screw everyone up unless we get these guys that nice new equiptment they did Saddle Back with to come down here and fix it in record time. Fat chance down in Puna,no observatories down here.

    And Rob we have talked, I’ve seen your Santa Fe lookin block house in the muddle of your neighbor’s camp houses, fit’s right in.
    But the one near me is crumbling into the enviorment.
    Fix that before you get involved with Puna’s Future.

    EVERYTIME! I drive to town I’ll see at least one, u-turn on I30, or a fool driving on the opposite shoulder in the wrong direction, or people going 38mpr holding up a train of cars just caus they’re trippin. I have pulled up to some crackhead (with his engine off) at the STOP sign at the top of Makuu and he was trying to light his crack pipe. He must have thought it meant STOP AND LIGHT UP.


    Why can’t they just open the shoulder lane Keaau to Pahoa? on BOTH sides of the road? Devide it.
    TIME THE LIGHTS, use computer directed flow censors.
    Or we’ll be going round and round in circles for the rest of time. IT WON’T WORK HERE.

  • Rob Tucker Says:

    Well HPP, whoever you may be, by all means share your thoughts with the KPAG group or HDOT. I have mostly listened and have tried to explain here what was presented at the public meetings.

    Neither I or anyone else would expect everyone to be in agreement on anything. What will be done with Hwy. 130 is yet to be finalized. There are those who will prefer an autobahn.

  • James Weatherford Says:


    Please confirm if the situation you mentioned in your hometown is a modern roundabout or a traffic circle.
    My hunch is — based on the time period and place you mentioned, as well as the installation of traffic signals — that it is not a modern roundabout but an old traffic circle.
    Of course, as said here and other places many times, modern roundabouts and old traffic circles are not at all the same thing. Both are round — an apple is round and an onion is round and they ain’t the same thing and you get different results if you bite into one or the other.

  • Jerry Carr Says:

    I support using some roundabouts in Puna at least on a trial basis. The fact that they offer something different from the usual DOT routine is a big reason IMHO. What they’ve been doing for decades does not usually work, so why not try something different? And yes, I know some people will have a hard time learning to use roundabouts, and some people never will learn to use them. Some people never learn how to do four-way stop signs or flashing traffic lights, either, but we still have those. (Hmmm. Now that I think of it, roundabouts are a great replacement for four-way stops and flashing lights.)

    As someone else suggested above, it might be good to start somewhere around the Pahoa Marketplace/Kahakai Blvd. area rather than doing a full-on project in the maelstrom of HPP-side 130. Incremental introduction at a few less-congested spots might work better.

  • G. Dalton Says:

    That what I also said Malama market/Hawaiian beachs may be a good shot. slow traffic, but not to much traffic, wide area, not many car going on down 130. I’am a mechanical engineer but all engineering classes ie: electrical, civil, water, ect all have the same goals. Move objects from one place to another place with the least cost in the quickest manner. Hwy 130 has two major flows one morning one returning. Hours morning 7:00 to 9:00 evening 4:00 to 6:00 theres about 20,000 to 25,000 cars in these packs. I don’t have DOT figures but I,m close. First problem Keaau two lane to one. Fix by making two lanes but somebody put power poles close in =$$$ Next Pohaku / Shower got to be two + lanes thats a big circle and area has a steep slope. Pohaku’s high got to go Shower’s low = $$$ Need to buy the 4 corner properties =$$$. Next going into roundabout 25,000 cars / 2hrs = 208.3 cars a min. / two lanes 104 car @ 55 mph these are high figures and in real life would be lower but still is a major bottleneck for that time period. Off peak times R/Bs would work good. This whole mess is the result of a lack of planning for Hilo (jobs) & Puna (home) Has the Puna CDP addressed any of these root causes??

  • G. Dalton Says:

    off topic
    Tom good to hear news. I did some drawing for original SCUBA inst racks also I was designing a lifting gantry but ran out of time and it was to complected and weight was a factor, I think they used smaller overhead crane. One of the real headache problems was to find out why such weird observation results. Turned out to be the dish bolts were unscrewing them selfs from hot/cold cycle and primary mirror vibration freq. I was a two stroke dirt bike guy same,same. Simone’s a no nonsense guy but I don’t think there anything engineering he doesn’t know Aloha Gary

  • Tiffany Edwards Hunt Says:

    Back on topic :)
    I am so amused at the back-and-forth, and yet the subject is not amusing at all when you yourself are a Puna resident.
    As someone who has been in a car crash on Highway 130, I have something to say:
    people need to slow down at the intersections, all of them — at Kaloli, at Ainaloa, at Maku’u, at the entrance to Pahoa, to Kahakai, to HAAS School and Post Office Road. A roundabout or a traffic signal… Let that discrepancy not hold up the Environmental Assessment.
    Let’s at the same time get to work on the alternate routes other than Highway 130. If not HPP, then Orchidland, Ainaloa, and/or Hawaiian Acres.
    My God, wouldn’t it be great to go back to rail, but to make the train powered by methane collected from a wet landfill. Try to envision rather than eliminate, people.
    Back to intersections, in Bali, a comparably sized island with millions of people rather than thousands, there is a belief in the sacredness of intersections. Yes, that’s right, those conflict points are thought to be overseen by certain gods. Daily, the women abiding by traditional Hindu custom take out to the middle offerings of incense and flowers wrapped in intricately woven leaf trays to appease the gods and try and prevent a car or motor scooter crash. That is why they have erected statues in the middle of their roundabouts. That is why there are roundabouts, to decrease the amount of conflict points and encourage the flow of energy… In this case, the flow of traffic.
    Every morning, I turn right, Pahoabound, from Ainaloa Boulevard. I envision a roundabout in the middle of that intersection, something to slow the cars coming around the bend from Hilo. I accelerate, hoping it is fast enough to avoid the approaching car from colliding into me. As I near Pahoa, I slow to 45 and look in my rear view mirror to ensure the car behind me isn’t tailgating and slows too. I pass the green sign-filled fence blocking the section of road fronting Malama Market. I get into the right-hand lane to turn onto Pahoa Village Road and yield for the motorist in the Hilobound lane about to make a left onto the road before me… I turn right onto Pajoa Village Road and look out for the motorists turning out from the Pahoa Marketplace. Oftentimes a motorist will chance it and turn out toward Highway 130 from Malama Marketplace, as I’m accelerating from the right turn onto Pahoa Village Road. I count atleadt three more conflict points that way than if the sign-filled fence were taken down and I proceeded straight into Pahoa. Turn the island bearing the lava rock sign reading Pahoa into a roundabout and denote the need to slow down with plenty of yellow paint.
    No, hpp, this is not an interstate. This is a highway, and if I have my druthers, a parkway. Slow down, this ain’t the mainland. Yes, let them drive around in circles if they can’t figure out the basics of a roundabout.
    In this car culture, I think we could all stand to be a little more contemplative about our driving. Think about the sacredness of every intersection on your next drive. Count the potential conflict points and discern how to fix the problem, one intersection at a time. It’s not no can, it’s can do, okay?

  • Tom Says:

    James – the UK roundabouts are modern roundabouts (in fact they were invented in the UK in the 1960s). I’ve never come across a traffic circle in the UK and am pretty sure they don’t exist there, at least in as much as I understand the term because it’s not used in the UK. The UK also have mini-roundabouts (which is what I thought you might be referring to, but on doing a little research I don’t think so). In essence, these are the same as four-way stops but are not put on major highways as they would be far too dangerous.

    Roundabouts work well in some situations, especially at major intersections, but work poorly on major roads with minor intersections which is how I see H130. In the latter case the roundabouts cause more delays because where traffic has not had to stop before the roundabout was built it now has to, especially in the rush hour.

    Gary – yes, the JCMT certainly had its difficulties in the past! The new Scuba2 is so big that railroad tracks have had to be built inside the JCMT dome to simply install the thing!

    Tiffany – great advice but with respect do you think Puna drivers will ever change? I don’t unless the driving licence test is made much harder, but then that doesn’t solve the problem of those poor drivers who already have a license. I also love the idea of a train, but without public transport in Hilo I just can’t see it working – you would still need your car to get from the station to wherever you needed to go.

    I still think building an alternative route is the way to go and once it’s done then address the problems of the intersections on H130 (and the bottleneck in Keaau). Whatever is done on H130 will not prevent access between Puna and Hilo being closed in a disaster until there is that other route. Two birds with one stone – lessen the pressure on 130 and another way in and out if the worst happens.


  • James Weatherford Says:

    Thanks for that, Tom.

    There is a lot to be said for this:
    “…an alternative route is the way to go and once it’s done then address the problems of the intersections on H130 (and the bottleneck in Keaau). Whatever is done on H130 will not prevent access between Puna and Hilo being closed in a disaster until there is that other route. Two birds with one stone – lessen the pressure on 130 and another way in and out if the worst happens.”

  • G. Dalton Says:

    OFF Topic
    Tom when you guys get to the edge, tell us what down there

  • Tom Says:

    Will do!

  • James Weatherford Says:

    Some discussion at damontucker.com re roundabouts.

    Here are two good YouTube videos linked there:

    This one specifically about Hawaii and the success of a roundabout …


    This one with the Mayor of Carmel, Indiana where a comprehensive roundabout program has been proven to save the city government and local drives money with less cost for emergency services, less fuel consumption, less cost than for installing and maintaining signals, less electricity usage, and better traffic flow:

  • hpp Says:

    Still you ignore the “PUNA DRIVING PUBLIC” you won’t train them over night, it will take years, thanks for the inconvience in the mean time.

    Then when/if you train the population to use them, it will only take one tourist from Utah with no circles driving S L O W L Y R O U N D T H E C I R C L E, S L O W I N G E V E R Y O N E E L S E D O W N.

    THERE ARE 4 surrounding 20 ACRES TRACTS two on either side of RAILROAD ave., IN HPP that SIT unused that would be perfect park and ride locations. Maybe a coffee shack and a newspaper stand? I’d love to ride the “Street Car Named Paradise”.

    I-30 will be NO QUICK FIX
    R/R could begin resurection at anytime.

  • hpp Says:

    Tif, “No, hpp, this is not an interstate. This is a highway, and if I have my druthers, a parkway. Slow down, this ain’t the mainland. Yes, let them drive around in circles if they can’t figure out the basics of a roundabout.”

    Not an interstate of course, we aren’t connected to any. My label is due to the speeds poeple are going when they pass me over double yellow lines to get home.

    I can’t keep up with them, my cars being two 25+ year old benz’s and a 75+ year old truck. I haven’t driven on the mainlaind in over a dozen years, can imagine how stupid it’s gotten, if the trickle effect are these JOB drivers since da boom.

    I’d like less not more.

    I don’t drive I-30 during commute hours, school bus hours or after dark. And certainly don’t go out and play with those young DUI drivers on the weekends.

    Ainaloa intersection, besides being the only location of a car-jacking I’ve ever heard of on the island, had two fatalities this year.

    There is at least 1 accident per month at this intersection. May 31, 2009 a father (36) and son (7) lost their lives at this intersection. They can put a light in NOW, if there was enough public demand.

    Want to HELP instead of just complain? Sign a petition.
    Right here, right NOW.


  • Stan Thompson Says:

    Google “hydrolley” (hydrogen powered ‘trolley’).

    Carbon-free, renewably produced hydrogen is likely to power the newest streetcars in North America.

    In Asia and Europe, the large existing fleets of overhead wire trolleys/trams can (and will) be modified to avoid the overhead wire by storing electric power on board in batteries and/or supercapacitors, replenished at passenger stops.

    But in the US and Canada where few urban rail vehicles now exist, this crypto-catenary last hoorah for external power will be leapfrogged in favor of new hydrolleys–built new to run wire-free on battery-dominant hydrogen fuel cell powertrains, almost identical to those now powering hydrogen buses around the world. Think: the high-density, sprawl-fighting, tax base building potential of urban rail, using only 1/7 the energy per passenger of rubber-tire buses:




    Google “‘stan thompson’ + hydrail” for the larger picture. Coincidentally, I’ll be on the Big Island vacationing sometime in January, 2010

  • James Weatherford Says:

    ‘Hydrail’ would appear to have a lot of potential.

    However, for Puna, the cost per passenger remains a concern.

    The Puna Community Development Plan, used “Growth indicators” to measure existing conditions, inventory opportunities and constraints, identify issues, and determine future growth” and projected Puna’s population, now 30,000, to reach 80,162 by 2030. Some people say it could be higher, even 250,000 if every lot had a house on it.

    Still Puna would have a population smaller than cities mentioned in the links.

    A smaller population raises the cost per passenger since most of the total cost is in overhead for construction and equipment.

    Certainly, getting rid of the wires reduces the cost of rail construction. The wires are one, but not the only reason, a bus guide way is so much less expensive than a rail bed with wires.

    Buses can also be (and already are) powered by hydrogen.

    As for “energy per passenger” — and also total cost per passenger, including rail or guideway construction and vehicles — the calculation is done based on the number of passengers which is derived from a portion of the total population. More passengers makes for lower cost per passenger; fewer passengers makes for higher cost per passenger.

    Charlotte, North Carolina is the lead city in the USA with ‘hydrolley’. Shanghai is using the technology in China.

    “The population of Charlotte is approximately 610,949 (2005).” source: http://www.usacitiesonline.com/nccountycharlotte.htm#statistics

    The population of Shanghai is 14,173,000 according to http://www.worldatlas.com/citypops.htm.

    Stan, look forward to seeing you in January. Look at my website, get my email and contact me.

  • hpp Says:



    I’ve been told by a couple road managers ago I’ll never see my road paved, but he was fired. So do I believe him?

    A train is a dream, excuse me but that what I do, not all of my dreams come true. My future vision of Puna is nothing like what it’s going to be. Money didtates that, not design, planning, or the path paved with good intensions.

    Anyone take the time to drive down 15th between paradise and Makuu? See what you street will look like when “same old same old ” style of operations that continue to happen in Puna . especially HPP

    evryone is doing fuel cells. Some taking buses off rubber and putting them on steel wheels!

  • James Weatherford Says:


    Me, like trains? Sure. Earlier this year I travelled by train from Syracuse, NY to Chicago, IL to Fulton, KY back to Chicago, IL to Seattle, WA.

    Trains are great — where there is enough population to pay for them. Until someone puts real figures — construction costs, equipment costs, operating costs — to the Puna situation, I remain doubtful it is feasible here. And, that will have to include the cost of putting a train into an existing city (Hilo) where there is not train — a very disruptive and expensive proposition.

  • Stan Thompson Says:

    Dr. James Wetherford, I tried to locate your web site to contact you but could not. If you’ll go the the U of NC’s hydrail site, http://www.hydrail.org, you can find mine easily. I’d really like to correspond with you about the economics of hydrolleys, which are very close to being hydrogen buses on rails. It may be that the energy savings of rail (1/7th that of rubber) might offset any construction cost advantage a Bus Rapid Transit route. From the Green angle, Denmark has looked at a dedicated wind turbine powering two hydrail trains…absolutely carbon free and renewable.

  • hpp Says:

    the train went all the way to town via rail road AVE,
    Hilo will grow, will it get as big as, Pearl City?
    “it” will be an inconvience to do anything, but a bigger one if we do nothing.
    Cheaper now, than in the future, plan ahead…
    The next couple real estate ballons may build Hpp out.
    Better to build before it gets too densely populated, which will just mean more difficulty with easements.

    When they first built the Golden Gate Bridge it wasn’t automatically filled, and they didn’t have rush hour, but it’s a good thing there were a few guys around who could foresee what was to come.

    Stan I went to the link you have there and noticed the Riverfront trolly, which is exactly what I could see doing really well here for this application of residential here/work there, hpp-hilo. how about a mass….. CAR-LESS-COMMUTE?

  • Big Island Chronicle » Blog Archive » ***Commentary*** An Email Dialogue With The State Transportation Director Says:

    […] I tried to call Brennon after getting a copy of the letter at issue today. He didn’t return my call. Haven’t heard from Ed Sniffen since we met at a recent Hawaiian Paradise Park meeting, although I invited him to come to a Mainstreet Pahoa Assiciation meeting. Jiro, I haven’t seen or heard from since the last Keaau-Pahoa Road Improvement Project meeting… […]

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