Residents, state and county transportation officials share transportation vision at Kïhei Community Association meeting. “… there wasn’t enough vision and planning.”
Scott Broadbent, Maui Weekly
May 27, 2010
Ask lifelong Maui residents about their early memories of Kihei and you will probably hear tales of Suda’s Fish Market, the Maui Lu Resort and the long, bumpy trail, now known as South Kihei Road, stretching to Big Beach. Few of the hearty souls who made their homes along this dusty trail could have envisioned the four-lane Pi‘ilani Highway which now carries daily more than 16,000 residents and throngs of visitors flocking to the beaches and resorts.
K?hei Community Association (KCA) President Jon Miller has described K?hei’s growth over the years as “haphazard at best.” At the Tuesday, May 18, KCA meeting, an issue Miller is passionate about—transportation in and around K?hei—was discussed. Miller moderated a panel made up of Maui County Department of Public Works Director Milton Arakawa, Kathleen Kern of the Maui Planning Department and Charlene Shibuya from the Hawai‘i State Department of Transportation to discuss the issue in South Maui.
“How people move from one place to another has an enormous impact on any community,” Miller said in a recent interview. “It should be a pleasant experience. But when I drive on South Kihei Road, it is clear there wasn’t enough vision and planning.”
Miller said he recently started biking around K?hei. “It is clear why there are not a lot of people riding bikes and walking in our community,” he said during a presentation showing telephone poles and other obstructions in the middle of sidewalks. “Bicycling and pedestrian walkways have been afterthoughts,” he said, displaying a slide of a bike path abruptly ending at a curb.
Miller said the KCA has advocated a better transportation system for South Maui for years through its Planning Committee, which has developed specific general planning procedures and Road Design Standards for Kihei. Miller discussed the environmental and health benefits of green thoroughfares, and the problems and costs associated with an automobile-oriented society.
“Why is this important now?” Miller asked. “The state is currently planning major roads for our area. The county needs to make sure the state understands the growth” we will have in South Maui and plans accordingly.
Arakawa discussed the status of a number of current transportation-related projects in Kihei and gave an overview of the approval process for projects from inception to construction. While he said he understood the need for increased maintenance of current roadways, paths and sidewalks, and the importance of new thoroughfares and transportation systems, Arakawa repeatedly explained the reality of limited funding for his department.
“People are driving more fuel-efficient cars, which is a very good thing,” he said. However, he explained, this results in less revenue for maintenance and new projects from the fuel tax, which is the primary funding source.
Kern discussed the prospect of charging developers an “impact fee” to help raise funds for transportation projects. She said studies are currently underway to determine how new development will impact our roadway system. “Impact fees would not be a panacea,” she said, but could augment current funding sources.
Shibuya reminded the attendees that there is a great deal of competition for funding for highway projects statewide and of how complicated the process is, alluding to Arakawa’s presentation.
During a question-and-answer period, the panel discussed issues ranging from potholes to mass transit.
The panel was asked about the possibility of a rail system on Maui. “We need alternate means [of transportation],” said Arakawa. “But it can be very expensive and complex, like we are seeing in Honolulu.” Arakawa advocated continuing to improve the Maui Bus system as an appropriate alternative, noting the meteoric rise in ridership in recent years.
Shibuya urged everyone to read the Maui Island Plan and support organizations like the KCA in efforts to oversee development and transportation related issues. “The government has a much easier time moving a project ahead if the community is behind it,” she said.
Shibuya also fielded a question about the proposed Upcountry to South Maui roadway. She said the project is moving through the Environmental Impact Statement study phase, and the project will be designed to be completed in three phases. She said no construction is currently planned due to financial considerations.
The North-South “Collector Road,” which would run through Kihei parallel to the Pi‘ilani Highway, is also currently on hold. “The collector road has had a long, checkered history,” said Arakawa. He explained that federal funds are not available until issues related to the total number of lanes on the collector road, Pi‘ilani Highway, South Kihei Road and perhaps even a new mauka highway, are settled. The funding requires 12 total lanes to address long-range transportation needs, he said.
Shibuya said the potential extension of Pi‘ilani Highway is not under consideration and probably will not be until development issues such as Wailea 670 are permanently resolved.
Arakawa explained how his department utilizes a software system to evaluate which roads get resurfaced and repaired. He invited community members to contact his department to report problems such as potholes.
Miller urged residents to get involved. “It is important to get our transportation issues on the map right now,” he said. “If we address this issue now, we can ensure K?hei will be a great place for visitors and the people who live here.”