Construction:Queen Kaahumanu Highway at Kawaihae Road

KAWAIHAE — Initial work began March 14 on a $1,514,153 project to improve the Queen Kaahumanu Highway at Kawaihae Road intersection.

But delays halted construction until recently.

“The Queen Kaahumanu Highway Intersection Improvements at Kawaihae Road Project will widen the subject intersection to provide a right-turn lane for northbound Queen Kaahumanu Highway traffic, a right-turn lane for eastbound Kawaihae Road traffic, an acceleration lane on Kawaihae Road and a lengthened left-turn lane for westbound Kawaihae Road traffic,” Shelly Kunishige from the Department of Transportation’s Public Affairs Office said Thursday.

Work to widen the intersection will include guardrail installations, utility work and an extension of the culvert, paving and striping.

The DOT awarded the contract to Isemoto Construction, LLC. Jan. 24. Originally estimated for completion in late July, the project is now scheduled to be done by the end of the year.

“I put in a call to Isemoto Contracting and was able to speak with the foreman for the project. He told me that it was delayed due to some difficulties with utility lines,” James Hustace said, acting chair of the South Kohala Traffic Safety Committee (SKTSC). “He said HawaiianTel didn’t have special equipment to relocate them.”

Funding came from the DOT’s Highways Special Fund, drawn from a combination of highway user fees such as registration, weight tax and gas tax, according to Kunishige. Asset management prioritization for projects such as this one is based on several aspects: traffic count, current conditions, accidents or if the road is in the worst condition with the most people driving on it, she explained.

“HDOT anticipates the improvements at this intersection will increase safety and improve the flow of traffic,” Kunishige said. “Work continues as the contractor is currently reconstructing a utility manhole. Lane closure restrictions for Ironman — (when) we must keep the paved shoulder available three weeks prior — and challenges in getting some materials on island have resulted in a new estimated completion date of late 2018.”

Neither the DOT nor Isemoto Contracting could confirm which days of the week or hours crews will work on the improvement project, despite repeated requests.

“We do anticipate traffic impacts as the project moves on to set up concrete barriers and paving,” Kunishige said.

Construction at the intersection especially effects residents from Kawaihae, Kohala and Waimea who drive that route to and from work on weekdays. They and others have been requesting improvements there for nearly 10 years.

“I was getting a number of inquiries about the status of this project,” Hustace said. “Community members complain that these projects don’t meet their deadlines because the proper prep work is not carried out.”

In the future, specific portions of Kawaihae Road and Queen Kaahumanu Highway approaching the intersection may be limited to one lane or closed for a limited period of time. Kunishige said a list of weekly road closures are updated every Friday on the DOT’s website at

“We encourage the public to check the routes they commonly take for planned lane closures,” she said.