Puna residents consider
alternate road

The draft proposal raises tempers
despite obvious drawbacks
with Highway 130

KEAAU, Hawaii » Sean Stehura, who lives in the Hawaiian Paradise Park subdivision south of Hilo, has registered a name for his Web site opposing a new roadway through his community.

4 meetings set for Puna plan

Four meetings are planned to take comment on the draft report of the Puna Regional Circulation Plan:

» Tomorrow, 1 p.m., Aupuni Center (Old Kaikoo Mall), Hilo
» Tomorrow, 6 p.m., Longhouse, Nanawale Estates
» Wednesday, April 6, 6 p.m., Cooper Center, Volcano
» Thursday, April 7, 6 p.m., Community Center, Keaau

It's called "noHPPfreeway.com."

Stehura isn't bothered by the fact that the road, if ever built, would probably be less than a freeway. He's trying to rouse opposition to it, whatever form it takes.

He won't have to try hard. Anger about the road boiled over at the Feb. 27 meeting of the Paradise Park community association even before the proposal was officially made public March 25.

That's when Townscape Inc., a Honolulu consultant hired by Hawaii County for $120,000, presented a "draft report" on the Puna Regional Circulation Plan.

The plan talks about expanding existing roads, creating new roads and increasing bus service throughout Puna. Paradise Park sits in an spot where almost any new road in lower, coastal Puna would have to pass through it.

New roads through Paradise Park have been proposed, and forgotten, since 1974. The latest is called the Puna Makai Alternate Route in the circulation plan.

None of the announcements of meetings about the circulation plan have mentioned this "alternate route." Four new meetings are set for tomorrow through Thursday, but none will be in Paradise Park, Stehura noted.

Despite the outcry on Feb. 27, a show of hands then revealed about a third of roughly 200 attendees opposed the road, a third supported it and a third were undecided.

Some acceptance comes from people that will not be affected. With Paradise Park stretching 4 1/2 miles from seashore to Highway 130, some people would be miles from a new road.

Stehura, on 17th Avenue, will be a block from the area where it could go through the back yards of 181 lots between 15th and 16th avenues.

"Maybe some people don't want to have a freeway right under their bedroom window," he said.

Gerard Silva, a member of the community association board of directors who lives on 20th Avenue, supports some kind of new road, noting its location is not set and that its size will probably be small because there is no money for a large road.

The circulation plan says a new road would cost at least $75 million, but no more than $4.8 million per year in federal money is available for it.

There is trouble right now on the only road through the area, Highway 130. Rush-hour traffic slows to 10 mph.

If a fatal accident takes place on Highway 130 and the crashed cars remain on the road, police have to close the highway during their investigation, district Capt. Steven Guillermo said.

One such closure lasted four hours, he said.

Flooding also periodically closes Highway 130.

The circulation plan shows lower Puna's current population of 25,000 doubling to 53,000 in 25 years.

"We need another route," Silva said.

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