1/15/21 #kihei   Maui News Today

Education officials still awaiting next meeting with LUC

A state Department of Transportation official said the roundabout project proposed for Kihei high school can be completed by June 2022, just in time for the school’s target opening for the 2022-23 school year.

Design for the roundabout is currently ongoing and expected to be completed in May with construction able to begin in June, said Ed Sniffen, the department’s deputy director for highways.

It will be built at the intersection of Kulanihakoi Street and the four-lane Piilani Highway and will be the first two-lane roundabout in the state, DOT officials confirmed. (A story published on Dec. 12 incorrectly described the size of proposed roundabout).

The state Department of Education has estimated the cost of the roundabout at $8 million to $10 million.

State officials provided an update on the project during a virtual community meeting Tuesday evening. A safe pedestrian crossing is one of the final pieces to be decided on prior to the long-awaited school opening.

 

The state Department of Transportation plans to build a roundabout at the Kihei intersection of Piilani Highway, Kulanihakoi Street and the entrance to under-construction Kihei high school. Graphic courtesy of Andrew Beerer

DOE spokesman Derek Inoshita said Wednesday that the state Land Use Commission required the DOE to hold a community meeting before scheduling another LUC meeting.

In November, the LUC again deferred a decision on a DOE request to do away with a condition that requires an overpass or underpass be built before the school can be opened. Officials have instead asked for a roundabout with raised at-grade crosswalks and a special traffic control system fronting the school. The DOE had said it would revisit the need for an underpass or overpass â€œat least four times, two of which must occur within three years of the school’s opening.”

But advocates for the school, including the Kihei Community Association, did not budge in November and said that while they supported a roundabout, they did not want the DOE to skip out on building an overpass or underpass, which they believe would provide greater safety for students and residents trying to cross the highway.

“Our consideration is that the underpass is by far the most beneficial to the community, to the state, to the Department of Education, to the Department of Transportation to delivering students under the roadway safely that they will use absolutely,” longtime Kihei high school advocate Andrew Beerer said during Tuesday’s meeting. “Whether you install it or not, they are going to use it.

“They don’t have to wait for a light and they don’t have to stall traffic,” he added. “It will allow as many cars to pass by safely, without pedestrian impediment as possible.

“Let’s look for a solution,” Beerer said.

As he has in past meetings, Sniffen said Tuesday that the underpass could cost $30 million, and at least one of the gulches where residents want to see an underpass is in a flood zone. DOT feels other gulches would present a similar problem.

Sniffen said that studies have found that virtually no one will use a pedestrian overpass if it takes 25 percent longer to cross compared to crossing at grade. An overpass at the Kihei school location would take 1.8 times longer to cross with stairs and 5.8 times longer with ramps compared to an at-grade crossing.

Using an underpass at Kulanihakoi or Waipuilani gulches would take more than 15 times longer.

Community members countered that water never flows in the gulches, and that if there are storms, the high school will probably be closed anyway.

Some of the concerns at the meeting included how the roundabout could affect traffic during an accident and whether large trucks could fit in the roundabout.

Sniffen said there would be an island in the middle of the roundabout where vehicles could be pushed in order to open the roadway. He added that the roundabout is large enough to handle larger vehicles.

If the roundabout moves forward, Inoshita said that construction could be completed before August 2022 to allow drivers to adjust to the new traffic patterns. He added that more community meetings will be held when updates are available.

Construction on the school is ongoing; Phase 2 started in October and includes administration and classroom buildings, the library, cafeteria, locker rooms, basketball court and a temporary playing field. The school will open in phases.

DOE officials said that materials from Tuesday’s meeting, along with questions and answers, will be posted soon at hawaiipublicschools.org/Pages/Home.aspx.

The Transportation Department’s presentation is online at hidot.hawaii.gov/presentations/.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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