New Web Site Tracks Traffic in Lower Puna

Something good may have come out of the long lava crisis in Lower Puna.  On March 25, the same day that Hawaiian Volcano Observatory lowered the volcano threat level from “Warning” to “Watch,” the County of Hawaii opened a new Web site:  punatraffic.com, a free Web based traffic monitoring service for Lower Puna’s Pahoa to Kea`au traffic corridor.  The site is designed to provide commuters with up-to-date information on “Traffic conditions along several transportation corridors that may be affected by the June 27th Lava Flow, including HWY 130.”  The site accesses 30 traffic cameras that refresh their images every three to five minutes.  Color codes on a map tell commuters which sections of the corridor between Kea’au and Pahoa  have “Free Flow,” “Moderate Traffic,” “Heavy Traffic,” or “Stop and Go” conditions.  The “dashboard” page of the site gives estimated travel times for each of eight sections of highway 130 between its junction on  Kahakai Blvd. in Pahoa to its junction with Milo Street, about midway along  and Kea`aua-Pahoa Bypass.  The site also includes live feeds to several cameras monitoring conditions on the lava flows themselves. Icons on the site’s traffic map inform viewers about the locations of traffic incidents, traffic congestion, road construction, adverse weather conditions and “special events.”

“The traffic monitoring system is a part of the County’s overall plan to monitor
traffic flow that may have to be re-routed as a result of the June 27 Lava Flow”  said a press release from the county about the new Web site.  It noted that  “The cameras are government property and specifically programmed to only work
with government equipment. Please kokua and respect this public benefit and
service.”

The site also has a page containing links to the Web pages and social media connnections for various state and county agencies, from Hawaii State and County Civil Defense agencies and the Department of Education official sites to Mayor Billy Kenoi’s Twitter feed.

Letters — From Hunter Bishop, About The Solid Waste Division, And Trash Hauling In Particular

Hunter Bishop, having served as the executive assistant to the mayor and deputy Environmental Management director, will be returning to the Hawaii Tribune-Herald as a reporter.

Aloha Tiffany,

Mahalo for reporting that Dave Smith and I are returning to the Hawaii Tribune-Herald. Before leaving the Department of Environmental Management, I would like to offer a parting statement about solid waste disposal.

In the fall, as DEM deputy director, I managed a study that consultant R.W. Beck had conducted for DEM on the feasibility of building a new landfill in Hilo versus hauling East Hawaii rubbish to Kona. The report made certain assumptions about hauling to Kona that the Department wanted to test with field studies that included sending trucks containing East Hawaii rubbish to the County landfill in Kona.

At that time the Department discussed its intent with the Mayor whose mind was not made up about a plan for the island’s rubbish. The Mayor was clear that the long-term policy regarding the future of rubbish included a number of options. Among them were a new landfill in East Hawaii, trucking East Hawaii rubbish to Kona, and building a new waste-to-energy facility. But no decision had been made. The Mayor wanted the best data available for the public to make an informed decision on each option, however, and urged the Department to test the study’s results.

In January the Department’s Solid Waste Division planned the field study, or pilot project, and estimated it would take about three months to compile adequate data for a meaningful result. The Division recorded data for evaluation in a report to be prepared upon completion of the project. The Mayor’s office was not apprised of the division’s field study operations as they were ongoing. Read more

Letters — Kudos for Ane Keohokalole Highway

(Editor’s note: Send your letters to the editor to newswoman@me.com.)

Hawaii County, Federal Highways Administration, Nan Inc., and Hawaii Department of Transportation did a great job on the Ane Keohokalole project. They were able design, obtain permits, and construct this highway within three years.  This is a remarkable feat that should be recognized.
I’ve strongly supported this project for a while. This highway provides an alternative route into Kailua-Kona if an accident closes Palani Road and helps reduce traffic congestion on Queen Kaahumanu. In short, this highway is more than a concrete slab. It helps improve West Hawaii’s roadway connectivity.
Hawaii County and the HDOT should actively seek funding for the phase III segment of this highway.

This phase, which would extend Ane Keohokalole Highway to Kaiminani Drive, is estimated to cost between 30-50 million dollars. It will be a challenge to secure that much funding in the current budgetary climate.

However, there isn’t any guarantee the Queen Kaahumanu Highway widening project will ever start. I hope FHWA reallocates this funding to extend the Ane Keohokalole Highway instead, if the Queen Kaahumanu widening project can’t proceed.
Aaron Stene
Kailua-Kona

Hawaii News — ‘Cruise Paradise 2012’ Events Extend Through July 7

1930 Ford Rat Rod image courtesy of Martha Rodillas

(Media release) — The Hawai`i Classic Cruisers proudly presents “Cruise Paradise 2012” from Thursday, June 28, 2012 through Saturday, July 7, 2012.  Classic and vintage vehicles will cruise the streets of the Big Island during this 10-day island-wide event.  Vehicles from the past have been restored to mint condition by car enthusiasts and will journey through towns and scenic routes across the island.

Classic vehicles arriving from as far away as Texas, Florida, California, Nevada, the neighbor islands and our very own local favorites are participating in the many activities planned for club members with free admission to the public.  During this 10-day event, the classic vehicles are expected to travel a total of approximately 90,000 miles and use 9,000 gallons of gas.

Television personality Dennis Gage will film an episode of “My Classic Car” of the car events that will be televised on the SPEED channel.

(Following) is a schedule of events that are open with free admission to the public:  Read more

Pahala News — Thousands Of Acres Destroyed By Fire In Pahala

Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Wynn

While traffic was at a standstill on Highway 11 this week, Elizabeth Wynn captured the photograph above depicting the ominous cloud of smoke from the 5,239-acre fires blazing in the Pahala area.  The larger  fire, at several thousand of acres and counting, is between mile markers 48 and 53 on Highway 1 and is not yet contained, according to the Hawaii Fire Department.  The smaller fire, at several hundred acres, is along Alii Springs Road and Higashi Camp Road and, by this afternoon, was 95 percent contained.  Both fires have primarily destroyed pastureland and macadamia nut trees, but no residential or commercial structures were destroyed as of today.  The larger fire was has multiple hot spots and flare-ups.  Wynn’s photo captures one of the many water drops that Hawaii firefighters have made this week to try and bring the fire under control. In all, 12 units with the Hawaii Fire Department and three units with Hawaii Volcanoes National Park have been fighting the fires.

Politics — Bob Herkes, Two Years Ago, Regarding Transportation Problems In Puna: ‘Not My District’

Robert 'Bob' Herkes

(Editor’s note: Robert “Bob” Herkes has represented State House District 5 since 1992.  Now he is seeking the newly reapportioned State Senate District 2.  Following are his answers to BIC questions posed to him two years ago when he was running for re-election to the State House.) 

1. What can you do to help resolve the transportation problems in Puna?

Not my district.

2. What is your position on the regulation or lack thereof of marijuana or cannabis?

Dereg and tax Read more

Transportation — An Update On The Pahoa Village Roundabout

(Following is an update from Sal Panem, who leads the Department of Transportation on Hawaii Island, regarding the roundabout project at Old Government Road (Also known as Pahoa Village Road.)
As I mentioned, we completed the negotiation with the design consultant and the contract is currently being drafted.  Once we execute the contract, the design NTP (notice to proceed) can be issued.  We anticipate that we will be purchasing additional right of way and we will need to clear all the environmental permits.  Although it is a tight schedule, we hope to complete the design by December this year and construction next year at an estimated cost of $2.5M.

Other projects we have is the Kea’au-Pahoa Shoulder Lane Conversion.  Phase I of this project is to convert the existing Kea’au bound lane into a full time travel lane.  We will also be widening the Waipahoehoe bridge and convert the existing Pahoa bound lane into a temporary shoulder lane to be used only during the afternoon peak traffic.  Phase II is to install the traffic signal at Shower Drive intersection.
We anticipate to advertise the Phase I of this project by August 2012 and Phase II in December 2014.  Construction of Phase I will be early 2013.  Estimated cost of this project is $21M for Phase I and about $3M for Phase II.
This is all I have for now.  As I get updated by the project managers, I will pass it on to you for your readers.
Sal Panem, Department of Transportion lead Hawaii District engineer

Guest Column — Do The Math

By Edward Gutteling, M.D.
“ I’m trying to think, but nuttin’ happens ! ”
Curly Howard,  The Three Stooges: Calling All Curs, 1939
All too often it seems our political leaders take actions that just don’t add up.  Perhaps they didn’t think it through all the way themselves, or perhaps they really did but they are deliberately hoping we don’t figure it out on our own.

Take for example the recent proud purchase of 5 Chevy Volt cars for the County of Hawaii by Mayor Kenoi. A recent news article shows him standing like a proud papa next to the shiny cars at the formal blessing and display ceremony, proclaiming “It couldn’t come at a better time, when we look at rising fuel prices….Hopefully we can grow the electric fleet and have it be the county fleet.”

These plug-in-electric / gas hybrids cost us $47,000 each, totaling $235,000 for five. They can go about 30 miles on electric power alone, then need recharging. When the gas engine kicks in, they get about 37mpg and require premium gas. Recharging the 16 kwH battery daily at our highest-in-the-nation electric rates, about 40 cent / kwH, costs about $6.40 / day.

For less than half the purchase price ($21,000) , a comparable sized and powered Chevy Cruze uses regular gas and gets about 30 mpg. Lets take an extreme case, and say gas is $5.00/gallon. That means that the Volt costs $1.40/day more than the Cruze to drive 30 miles, and costs twice as much to buy. For the same cost we could have had eleven Chevy Cruze, and saved on operating costs as well.

And we’re supposed to be proud and pleased about this? For spending more and getting less?
Somehow the thrill of being “green”, and “independence from foreign oil” doesn’t quite add up. Read more

Hugh-isms — TSA Is Intolerable And Mazie Is Bad

 
(Editor’s note: Following is an open letter to Congresswoman Mazie Hirono written by retired 40-year Honolulu Advertiser reporter Hugh Clark.)
April 26, 2012
Congresswoman Mazie Hirono
5-104 Prince Kuhio Building
200 Ala Moana Blvd
Honolulu 96850
Dear Representative:
IT IS TIME:
For Congress to take action against the newest form of American Nazism – the Transportation Safety Administration. It has done far more to terrorize American travelers than any Muslim group.
Not only have I and my family endured inconvenience and insults over the last 10 years of travel through persistent rude and crude behavior of its station agents, we have observed even worse directed toward other arriving passengers, typically the old and handicapped — the weak.  Regulations are not uniform or enforced consistently.
Adding in convictions (but no jail terms) of Molokai and Kona TSA agents stealing from foreign visitors), now we learn that at LAX they are enabling drug runners and in Kansas molesting a four-year-old girl following negative news for manhandling aged women traveling with significant post-cancer issues.
Its misbehavior clearly has no stop line, no judgment and no security purpose. It is a major inhibitor to the development of Hawaii’s chief industry, worse than arcane visa requirements.
Since retiring in 2002, travel has been my penchant. We have visited two-dozen foreign countries in the period since and not one matches the surely behavior of the USA. Only Russia came close.
I have two mainland family members who are reluctant to visit us because of the TSA. One declined to attend a family funeral here. Get rid of this monster ASAP. It is correctable, if Congress only gets off its collective duff.
Thank you,
Hugh Clark
P.O. Box 1956
Hilo  96721
P.S.
I would have preferred to have sent this by e-mail but your Hilo staff office was unable to articulate an e-mail address to me and I decided to avoid long distance charges. I never experienced such communication problems with the late Patsy Mink and Spark Matsunaga.
— HJC
Aloha, Hugh POB 1956 Hilo HI 96721-1956 808-935-4322 hm