[image title=”North South Collector” size=”full” id=”385″ align=”center” alt=”North South Collector” linkto=”full” ]

The state requires a four-lane north-south collector road running the length of Kihei. County and local officials favor a two-lane road with greenways and a bike path. (Above) This is proposed location of the collector road at Kulanihako‘i Road.

Maui Weekly | June 26, 2008 | Scott Broadbent

Arakawa addresses ongoing concerns: traffic, the proposed collector road, drainage, bike paths, traffic roundabouts and pedestrian safety. “We are always willing to look at specific requests.”As food and gas prices soar, many of us are tightening our belts and trying to make do with less. That also holds true for the Maui County Department of Public Works.

Public Works Director Milton Arakawa addressed a number of issues facing South Maui at the Kihei Community Association (KCA) meeting on Tuesday, June 17. Topics included traffic and the proposed north-south collector road, drainage, construction of bike paths and traffic roundabouts at intersections and pedestrian safety. All are difficult enough to address. A faltering economy and the department’s mission to protect the public’s health, safety, property and environment by developing and operating the county’s infrastructure and administering its building codes add to the difficulties.

A portion of the department’s revenues comes from fuel taxes. As people carpool, ride the bus and drive less, funding decreases. “We see that as a positive,” said Arakawa, noting that conserving resources is critical. But less funding provides more challenges.

Measures the department is taking include using more concrete in road projects as the price of asphalt rises and evaluating use of a slurry seal treatment that preserves roadway surfaces longer. In addition, Public Works is attempting to conserve resources and perform preventative maintenance to head off bigger problems in the future.

Even with a stumbling economy, a number of projects are moving forward. Others are still being debated.

For years, the state and county have been at odds about how best to move traffic through various corridors in South Maui. A “north-south collector road” has been on the books for years. Federal funds, approved for a four-lane road to run parallel to Pi‘ilani Highway and South Kihei Road from Uwapo Road to Wailea, have stalled because the community prefers a two-lane road with greenways and bike paths. In order to receive the federal funds, the county would have to show how the additional traffic would be diverted.

“The Department of Transportation is currently updating the plan,” said Arakawa, “so that requirement could change.”

The state would like to see a total of 12 lanes carrying traffic through Kihei. Pi‘ilani Highway cannot expand beyond the current four lanes because of restricted right-of-way.  It would be difficult, although not impossible, to add lanes to South Kihei Road, Arakawa explained. An alternative could be the construction of a new highway mauka-side of Pi‘ilani Highway. The matter remains unresolved.

Drainage is another big issue facing South Maui. “When it rains in Kula, that water comes to Kihei,” said Arakawa. “One answer may be to try to retain more water up on the mountain.” He cites an approach taken by West Maui as a good model to emulate. Years ago, he said, West Maui had a significant problem with runoff during storms. The county worked with citizens, engineers and community organizations to develop measures to retain the water. “Kihei is more complicated because it is a much larger watershed,” said Arakawa. “There is a much larger volume of water.”

For years, KCA has advocated for construction of roundabouts at traffic intersections. The County Council has approved $2.5 million for a construction of a roundabout at the Liloa-Pi‘ikea intersection near Safeway. Costs are higher and construction more difficult than it may seem, explained Arakawa. “It is a little like fitting a round peg in a square hole,” he said. Underground electrical materials, the number of lanes approaching the intersection on each side and drainage issues all have to be considered. Still, he explained, the federal government understands roundabouts can be effective because there is also a reduction in gasoline usage as traffic slows rather than stops and starts again.

Another project that has been on the books for years is construction of a Kihei bike path. The long-range goal, said Arakawa, is to build a bike path that runs the length of Kihei. Funds have been released and construction should resume this summer for the portion running from Waipuilani Road to Lipoa Street.

During a question-and-answer period, the issue of pedestrian safety was raised. Among the suggestions were to illuminate, raise or place lighted pedestrian signals near Kamali‘i School, add crosswalks along South Kihei Road and to repair and extend sidewalks throughout South Maui.

KCA President Jon Miller asked if there was a formal procedure for addressing long-range infrastructure issues. Arakawa urged citizens to present their views, ideas and issues and suggested working through KCA. “We are always willing to look at specific requests,” he said.

The public is invited to attend the next KCA meeting, which will be held on Tuesday, July 15, at 6:30 p.m. at the Kihei Community Center on Lipoa Street. The topic will be preservation of our coral reefs.