10/30/21 #kihei Today’s Maui News Editorial
Another hurdle for high school
Look up any story about the project from the past 25 years and there is a good chance “long-awaited” will be found somewhere in the copy. The description usually comes right at the top. “Oft-delayed” will probably show up as well.
Such was the case with Thursday’s edition of The Maui News and a story detailing the state Land Use Commission’s decision to once again deny the Department of Education’s request to open the school without a grade-separated crossing for pedestrians. The DOE promised the crossing when it was granted permission to build on the mauka side of busy Piilani Highway. It has been trying to walk away from that promise for years, but the LUC continues to hold them to it.
LUC Commissioner Lee Ohigashi of Maui made the motion for denial. He said the DOE did not meet its burden of proof as to why the condition should be removed, or that the planned roundabout at the Piilani Highway intersection with Kulanihakoi Street would be a proper substitute for a grade-separated crossing.
The school is currently under construction and had an opening date for its first class of students set for August 2022. The DOE says the LUC’s decision now means it will not open on time. There are questions over whether the campus would be ready by then anyway. As much as the prospect of another delay makes Kihei residents want to throw up their arms in frustration, the LUC is doing the south side community a favor.
The DOE has been dragging its feet hoping the condition would go away. Well, it hasn’t. It is long past time for the DOE to engage with the County of Maui to come up with a workable solution for a dangerous section of highway where speeding is rampant and the bridges are so narrow they are barely safe to use as bike lanes, let alone walkways for kids.
All sides agree an overpass would be a costly white elephant. Study after study shows pedestrian overpasses do not get used. Kihei Community Association members and others, including state Rep. Tina Wildberger, have called for a simple pedestrian underpass to be built beneath Piilani Highway’s Waipuilani Bridge. They have worked hard on the concept and insist it will be safer than having all pedestrians cross the highway.
State officials on Oahu have balked at building a walkway in a flood channel. Advocates say the walkway would not only be safe, it is far less expensive than an overpass and could be completed relatively quickly.
They are offering the DOE an out. Will the powerbrokers on Oahu take it?