Letter: More on the Roundabout

Dear Russell, Gregor, Joy, Daniel, Billy, Gov. Ige (DOT and Editors),

I am sorry to be a big pain in the ass, but I think you as our elected officials are making a big mistake by not actively trying to stop this or at least force the original 2-lane design (without crosswalks of any type) so we are increasing the size of our one road in and out of Pahoa and not adding pedestrians to the mix.  

As our elected representatives of the residents who will be impacted by the Roundabout, I am asking you to please truly look at the DOT plans and not let politics get in the way of safety. Mr. Sniffin told community members at that last meeting they are installing the one-lane roundabout first, they are not allowed to install the 2-lane, because they don’t know if it [roundabout] will work.  

There should be no experimentation done with our only road.  We as a community already have been squeezed for years and we have the potential for live lava flowing in the area at any time.  We finally get a crosswalk – and it is in the middle of our roundabout???  The crosswalks needs to be by Hawaiian Beaches and Post Office Road.   We need to be able to get in and out of Pahoa without waiting for pedestrians needing to cross the street and 3 inputs of traffic merging in circles.  

What happens when there is an accident and rescue personnel are trapped inside Pahoa with an ambulance needing to get to Hilo hospital?  We can’t wait for 2 hours for someone to unlock the gate in Nanawale.  You are all being notified again that this is an wasteful and unsafe plan to build some roundabout speculating that it might work.  This should be unacceptable to you.

Thank you for your concern for the people of Pahoa and not shmoozing with fancy shirts on this.


Sara Steiner

7 replies
  1. Roy Dean
    Roy Dean says:

    I agree with you Sara. FYI the State has a Compact with the Feds governing the road construction process required to pass Fed muster. Do you know if process requirements have been met?

    The other side of this coin is economic. More work means
    more paychecks for the construction crew. People keep

    Has anyone looked for a solution that allows a win-win for
    public safety and the construction industry?

  2. Russell Ruderman
    Russell Ruderman says:

    I replied directly to Sara’s letter already. Since I know her concerns are shared by others, I will repeat some of my response here.
    The roundabout is being done to improve the most dangerous intersection in the state. I welcome the long-overdue improvement. Roundabouts are recognized worldwide as safer and more effective in this kind of intersection. True, we are not used to them, but we are capable of learning to use them just as anyone elsewhere.
    The roundabout is one lane because the highway is one lane. Highways Chief Ed Sniffen was misquoted here; He did not say this was an experiment or that they don’t know if it will work. He said when the highway is widened to two lanes, then the roundabout will be widened also.
    As for safety, a roundabout will be much, much safer and more effective in an emergency situation. As we all know, in most emergencies, the power reliably goes out. The roundabout will function normally – a traffic light will not. As for crosswalks, they are designed as is standard for roundabouts. I cannot imagine that they will be worse than no crosswalks.
    As an elected official I convened a meeting a couple years ago with about a dozen community members and DOT staff. We expressed our concerns with the original design and some suggestions were included.
    I truly commend Sara Steiner on the considerable work she’s been doing to improve safety in our community. Some of her advocacy is already yielding results. I hope more of our neighbors become similarly active to improve our community!

  3. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    lets just say that I am a wheelchair user and live across the hwy from aloha gas.
    The roundabout will make it MANY times safer for me to access Pahoa and return home.
    Currently, I need to cross two opposing lanes of hwy traffic going 45 mph.
    The roundabout will allow me to cross a single traffic lane (one at a time) where vehicles are traveling 15 mph.
    It is scientifically proven that roundabouts are safer.
    The learning curve takes seconds for first time users.
    Why this ‘controversy’ still exists baffles me.
    Libertarians love roundabouts;
    the gov’t isn’t making drivers stop arbitrarily, only when it’s necessary.
    Can we please focus on real issues!

  4. Puna Ohana
    Puna Ohana says:

    Sara let’s have an “I told you so” Party when this grand faux pas opens. It seems politicians aren’t in touch with the realities of the area they are suppose to represent. The excuse of power outages?, serious? What we don’t have the technology to have a solar light system?

    This is not “worldwide”, this is Puna. We don’t have predominantly international drivers. We have more drivers taught by uncle. Is there going to be a cop parked there with an instruction manual? Are you kidding? People around here can’t even parallel park, they can’t MERGE!!! Most important part of a traffic circle.
    This will cause back ups in all directions. Stop go, stop go, stop go at the center. LOL Glad I don’t commute.

  5. James Weatherford
    James Weatherford says:

    The project at the Pahoa intersection is not a “traffic circle”. It is a roundabout. And, no, they are not the same. Look it up.
    In a roundabout, there is not “merging”.
    Rather, there is yielding and ‘Yield’ signs are posted.
    The maneuver is just like taking a right turn out of your driveway on to the road. Yield to traffic in the lane.
    And, unlike with signals, the driver never needs to take eyes away from the road.

  6. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    So, ‘puna ohana’ is prejudiced against Puna’s Ohanas, (‘they’ are inherently bad drivers.)
    He/she/it is prejudiced as well against recent arrivals, (‘they’ will flee when they see their roundabout mistake.)
    What should ‘we’ think, when an individual self-reports
    that they are multiple people?
    Is treatment covered by the ACA?

  7. Russell Ruderman
    Russell Ruderman says:

    Puna Ohana – The fact that the roundabout will work in emergencies is not an ‘excuse,’ it’s a side benefit to the all-around safest solution. Have you noticed all the ‘solar-powered traffic lights’ elsewhere in Hawaii? Me, neither.
    Insulting all Puna people, as you do when you say we cannot learn, is unfortunate but does not affect the outcome. I have faith in my Puna neighbors even though many of us are new to this kind of thing. We can learn, just like people anywhere can learn.
    It’s a pleasure exchanging ideas so respectfully, tho. All the best to you.

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