Hawaii officials assess traffic safety concerns at lava tube
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii (AP) — Hawaii transportation officials are assessing safety concerns at a Big Island lava tube, which residents say has become an increasingly popular tourist destination.
The Huehue lava tube is on the mountain side of the Queen Kaahumanu Highway about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) north of the Kona airport, West Hawaii Today reported Tuesday.
Visitors park along both sides of the road and cross the highway, sometimes creating an unsafe environment as traffic passes through the 55 mph (88 kph) zone. With the closures of the main area of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and other popular sites because of the Kilauea volcano, the lava tube appears to be busier.
“It’s getting progressively worse in a rapid period of time,” resident Dolena Brand said. “In a couple of months, it went from a couple cars to 30, 40, 50, and just it keeps climbing.”
Kona-area residents driving on the road have reported near misses with visitors crossing the highway or cars pulling onto the road.
“It’s a safety hazard,” Kona resident David Baldwin said. “I’ve had children walking across the highway; people doing U-turns. They just walk across the street like it’s a park, and I just can’t believe it.”
Despite residents’ complaints, the state Department of Transportation said it was unaware of a possible safety issue at the site until it was contacted by the newspaper last month.
“Our preliminary crash data and complaint logs did not show this area of the highway as a safety concern, but we will coordinate with HPD and investigate your report of illegal U-turns and unsafe stopping and parking in our jurisdiction,” said Shelly Kunishige, a department spokeswoman.
If the department determines the situation is dangerous, it will consider installing new signage prohibiting certain activities, she said.
Information from: West Hawaii Today, http://www.westhawaiitoday.com