Last month’s announcement that a deal had been struck between the state and county to allow the opening of Kulanihako’i High School overshadowed another landmark pledge to Kihei.
With flood-prone South Kihei Road increasingly vulnerable to rising seas and powerful storms, this parallel road will provide a vital traffic option during emergencies. It will also relieve congestion on Piilani Highway, especially on school days.
Holding up the completion of the collector road all these years has been the expense of building bridges over Waipuilani and Kulanihakoi gulches, as well as a third, smaller bridge for the spur that runs past Lokelani Intermediate School to Welakahao Road. Those bridges will not be cheap, but hopefully federal and state funds can be tapped.
During his State of the County address, Bissen referred to Piilani Highway’s “infamous roundabout” and promised students would not be using its crosswalks. That too must have been music to Kihei ears. With its narrow bridges and heavy traffic, Piilani Highway is not safe for pedestrians.
That is why the state Department of Education should be looking to the north-south collector road to locate the access to its mandated pedestrian overpass. Whether on foot or bicycle, students should be encouraged to use the middle road, not the highway. To put them along Piilani Highway is to put them in danger. It also provides temptation to dart across traffic.
There is a vacant lot directly across from the high school that fronts a functioning spur of Kenolio Road. The property could be acquired to make a school drop-off circle and county parking lot for bikers and walkers. Or an easement could be obtained for students using the overpass.
The county and state worked together to find a way to open Kulanihako’i High School to students this August. We hope they continue to collaborate to create the best solution for the pedestrian overpass. Ideally, it will be functional, attractive and built to serve the entire community for many years to come.