2/26/2022 #kihei #north-south-collector-road #traffic

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FEB 26, 2022

Getting ahead of the traffic

News that the Honua?ula master-planned community in South Maui may be nearing approval after more than 30 years of opposition and legal challenges has us thinking about the impacts a development that size will have on traffic along Kihei?s entire north-south corridor.

If approved, the addition of 1,150 housing units is sure to add vehicles to roads from Wailea Alanui Drive to Maui Veterans Highway. Not only will there be new residents, but also considerable construction and service traffic.

Smaller developments are already ongoing in Makena and Wailea, and others are on the books. Combine that growth with the opening of the long-awaited Kihei high school and a rebound in tourism and a perfect storm is brewing.

A state Department of Transportation Highways Division traffic study already predicts the high school could eventually cause ?D? level traffic at peak use. Level ?E? is gridlock. That does not take into account what happens when low-lying South Kihei Road is knocked out of service, as it was by December?s Kona storm. While the oceanfront road was closed, Piilani Highway and its side streets became quagmires. On at least one evening in December it took more than an hour to travel the length of Kihei.

Rising sea levels and intensifying rainstorms mean it is not a question of if South Kihei Road will be knocked out again, but when and how often. What happens if Kihei gets a double-whammy and Piilani is also shut down by a brush fire or major accident?

That is why Maui County must make the completion of Kihei?s north-south collector road a top priority. Not only will it help alleviate daily congestion, it will serve as a crucial lifeline for the community in times of need.

?The north-south collector road is absolutely critical,? said Kihei Community Association Director Andrew Beerer.

Association President Mike Moran said the route has been KCA?s number one concern for decades.

?We feel it is vital to have another road going north and south,? Moran said.

He explained that the next phase of Liloa Drive connecting Waipuilani Road and Kulanihakoi Street has been pushed back several times and is now slated for 2025. The following phase, which would connect Liloa to Kaonoulu Street and thus north-south Kenolio Road, is reportedly not even on the county?s radar.

At least three bridges reportedly need to be built to link up the entire 6.8-mile route, including two over major gulches. Yes, it will be expensive and other deserving projects will be delayed. But lives are at stake. And so are incomes. How many people will want to stay in Wailea if it becomes a two-hour, bumper-to-bumper slog from Kahului Airport?

Whatever it takes, whether it is securing funds from President Joe Biden?s infrastructure programs, floating bonds or borrowing cash, let?s get those bridges and sections of roadway built before the crisis hits, not after.