Public panels get feedback on roads
KAILUA-KONA » Kona residents are being given a greater say than usual in the planning of two roads expected to connect the oceanfront with the island's main inland highway.
The county has created citizens boards responsible for raising community concerns and ideas during the planning and design phases of Lako Street and Laaloa Avenue.
Officials say the board allows for far more input from residents than a limited number of public hearings.
"This is a longer and more expensive way, but we don't regret it," said Bruce McClure, county Department of Public Works director, adding that the input led to a better design for the two planned roads.
Officials say the roads will offer additional evacuation routes, provide traffic relief and result in a better-connected community.
"For the vitality of the community, we need a network of roads," McClure said. "It doesn't have to be a grid, but they have to intersect."
Alii Drive, which runs along the shoreline approximately six miles from Kailua Village south to Keauhou, features homes, subdivisions, condominium complexes and several popular beach parks.
But only two roads connect Alii Drive to Queen Kaahumanu Highway, the main artery that runs around the Big Island.
The 1,850-foot Lako Street extension carries a price tag in excess of $5 million. Construction is expected to begin late this year.
While most residents would prefer not to have roads cutting through their neighborhoods, they realize there is a need.
Much of the discussion at community meetings has centered on such details as turn lanes, pedestrian and child safety, traffic control measures, and landscaping and sidewalks. Residents have also talked about preserving historic sites.
Kona Councilwoman Brenda Ford said her biggest concern over the Lako Street extension is the Keakealaniwahine complex, a pre-contact settlement rife with temples, walls and burials that date to the 16th century.
"We shouldn't be anywhere near that complex," she said. "It would polarize the community and has the potential for a lawsuit we can ill afford."
Some of the historic complex already is under the protection of the state Parks Division thanks to donated parcels of land and earlier buys, including 12 acres of oceanfront property now called Keolonahihi State Historic Park.