BIG ISLAND NEWS - New bus route planned for Waikoloa and Waimea areas

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Summit to Sea Realty Corporation

Aloha - Anyone who has visited the Big Island is aware of the lack of transportation. Basically you need to rent a car if you really want to get anywhere and/or see anything.  Growing up here, playing sports and working would have been impossible without my own car.   This new route will be wonderful for the resort area and the communities of Waikoloa Village and Waimea. 

The Hawaii County Transit Authority is proposing a free shuttle bus looping exclusively through the Waimea and Waikoloa areas, possibly starting sometime this fall.

Transit Authority director Tom Brown and Kohala Councilman Pete Hoffmann outlined preliminary plans for the new route at Tuesday's South Kohala Traffic Safety Committee meeting. Brown and Hoffmann said they hope the creation of such a route will alleviate growing congestion in the area by providing more transportation alternatives for construction and resort workers, the elderly, beachgoers and school children.

"We've been getting requests to get people from Waimea and Waikoloa to the beach area," Brown said. "There are a lot of construction workers and resort workers in Waikoloa and with rising gas prices, we would like to provide free transportation to those residents."

The Transit Authority is proposing a route beginning in Waikoloa Village, continuing to the Waikoloa Beach Resort area, back north on Queen Kaahumanu Highway, up Kawaihae Road to Waimea and then back to Waikoloa Village via Mamalahoa Highway and Waikoloa Road. A run of the loop should take about an hour, Brown said.

Only one bus is proposed for the route at this point, and the agency is considering running it for at least eight hours Monday through Friday, while Saturday service is also being considered, Brown said.

"We are already running five or six buses through the area from East Hawaii to the resorts," Brown said. "We would like to tie in those buses with this route and schedule accordingly to provide adequate coverage of the area."

While the free Hele-On bus service does serve Waimea, there is no bus service into or out of Waikoloa Village.

The county is not budgeted to start such a route in the next fiscal year, but Brown said federal money being released in October could be used to fund the pilot project. While Brown did not have an overall cost estimate to start up and service the route, money would be needed for maintenance and general operations.

One of the five new 45-passenger buses recently approved for purchase could be used for the Waimea-Waikoloa route, Brown said. Hoffmann also said that county discretionary funds could be released for the pilot project.

"Public transportation is economy driven, not economy burdensome," Hoffmann said. "I'm not sure that this is the only answer to solving our traffic problems, but it is an important component. We need to stop talking and start acting."

"None of this is rocket science and none of this is really new," Hoffmann added. "We have to do something internally in Waimea and Waikoloa to alleviate traffic and we've got to do that right now."

In other news from the meeting:

- Public Works Director Bruce McClure said the county has met with consultants regarding the proposed Lalamilo Connector Road and is working with Parker Ranch to devise a plan for one intersection on the road, instead of multiple intersections.

The so-called mini bypass would begin on the town side of the Waimea Transfer Station, run parallel to the property line between the Lalamilo Farm Lots and Parker Ranch land, intersect with Mamalahoa Highway just north of the rodeo grounds, travel behind the new Lualai subdivision and then rejoin Mamalahoa Highway near the police station.

- McClure noted that the county has made major changes in the dissemination of information on the resurfacing of Mamalahoa Highway, which began on June 17. In addition to radio ads and electronic sign boards on the highway, the county established a manned hotline. For eight hours a day Monday through Friday, drivers can call 887-3374 and speak to someone directly on what to expect in the area. The line will be manned for 12 hours on Saturdays and a recorded message is continually updated should the line be tied up, McClure said. A daily e-mail update bulletin has also been established.

County workers are in the midst of a month-long repaving project of five miles between Kamamalu Street and Mud Lane and between Waimea Elementary School and Lalamilo Farm Lots.

- Paniolo Avenue in Waikoloa should be re-striped by the end of the year, McClure said. Resurfacing of the road is further off, however, since there is not enough money now to complete the project.

- The Environmental Assessment for the Waikoloa Emergency Access Road should be published by August and work on the road will commence in October, McClure said.

The road, expected to cost $178,000, will be gravel, 12 to 15 feet wide, one-way with traffic heading makai and gated except for in emergencies. It will intersect with Queen Kaahumanu Highway near the Mauna Lani Fire Station.

West Hawaii Today - Wednesday, July 12, 2006 9:20 AM HST

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