VIDEO: Widely Discussed Kihei Roundabout Now Open
[flashvideo file=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPIawh6i-Q8 /] By Wendy Osher
A grand opening and blessing ceremony was held today for the first county-owned roundabout on Maui.
The new Kihei roundabout, located at the intersection of Piikea Avenue and Liloa Drive, is also the first full sized roundabout on Maui, that can accommodate both truck and county bus traffic.
There are two other roundabouts on Maui–one located above Launiupoko, and another near the Upcountry Longs.
“This is a project that has been in the works for a very long time, and it’s been very hotly debated,” said Mayor Alan Arakawa during today’s blessing event.
But, he said, “(if) we don’t take examples from other places around the world, and put them to some degree of testing within our community, we’ll never know what is going to be the best.”
“I think we’ve made the right decision,” said Mayor Arakawa, “but time will tell.”
The circular intersection is a traffic alternative to a four-way stop and was designed to improve traffic and pedestrian safety in the area.
“National statistics have proven out, these intersections are up to 70% safer than a four-way signalized intersection,” said County Public Works Director David Goode.
“The type of accidents that will happen–they’re inevitable–are minor fender benders. You can’t do a t-bone in here, unless you try really, really hard; you can’t do head-ons. Ultimately I think the human factor in all of this is going to show that it’s very, very cost effective,” said Goode.
The roundabout is a traffic alternative to a four-way stop and becomes part of the Kihei Bikeway. The project broke ground eight months ago, and was completed at a cost of and estimated $2 million.
“This two-million dollar project helped in many different ways for this community. It helped to put people to work; and more importantly, it’s going to help improve safety and traffic flow here in this very busy intersection,” said County Managing Director Keith Regan.
The most important thing to remember when you’re inside a roundabout is don’t stop, said South Maui Council Member Don Couch. “Keep going, even if you’re lost, go back around–(because) you can’t go too far if you stay inside,” said Couch.
Couch remained optimistic that the project would set the tone for other intersections on Maui. “I can’t wait for the day, when everybody’s calling up and saying when can we have our roundabout; or when can we have another one… I really anticipate that happening soon,” said Couch.
“If we don’t try, we’ll never know,” said Mayor Arakawa. “Once we try, we can make a judgement, and we can make an informed judgement.” “We’ve tried four-way stops, we’ve tried having two-way stops, we have traffic signalization in other areas; and a roundabout is one of the tools we can use for traffic calming,” he said.