Support for Funding Uncertain; Meeting Absences and Late Arrival of Key Representative Add Lack of Clarity
The Kihei Community Association attended the Maui Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Policy Board meeting yesterday afternoon, after being absent from those meetings for over the past year.
KCA had attended the first meeting about four years ago. KCA supported the efforts of the MPO by submitting testimony, as the fledgling group stabilized & organized.
But with many meetings to attend and few active volunteers, KCA stepped back from traveling into Wailuku and just watched from afar.
Recently, a growing concern and mixed messages from various officials on next segment of the long-awaited development of the North-South Collector Road (NSCR) prompted KCA to attend the 3:00 PM meeting.
Despite official precautions advising against publicly attended events due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, representatives of the KCA made it a point to attend this particular MPO meeting.
The next phase of the much needed North-South Collector Road is to extend northward the existing segment which runs from Halekuai (at the Community Park and Lokalani school) and now terminates at Waipuilani, to extend to Kulanihakoi. While total connectivity of this complete street would mark true safety for pedestrians and cyclists on the segregated greenway, the importance of its completion is even more vital as Kulanihakoi will be the focal point of movement for pedestrian and traffic with regard to the future high school in Kihei.
While this project is on the current list of road projects by the Maui Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) for 2022, the KCA learned that there is insufficient local match funds to ensure the federal and state funding is not lost. Without those matching local funds, the NSCR will not be constructed.
Mayor Victorino reportedly will not include such funding in the 2021 county budget, which will be revealed in a few weeks.
KCA questions if there are any other sources to fill this required match locally.
The KCA organization suggestion is to look at bills in the current State Legislation session which could possibly fill the projected funding shortfall.
There is bill HB1776 with a GET surcharge dedicated to infrastructure and also bills HB1930 and SB2687 which adds fees on rental cars, all of which could possibly be a source of additional funding. There is SB2167, too, but it appears dead now.
With the current board composed of three County Council members, three county Department Directors, a State Senator and Representative for Maui and the Director of the State DOT discussing the future road projects on Maui and legislative bills on the agenda, this meeting looked an opportunity to address the topic of funding.
KCA was the first of two testifiers in the compact setting. Two of the Councilors were not present, board chair and Upcountry residency’s seat, Yuki Lei Sugimura, and East Maui’s Shane Sinenci. Sinenci’s father had just passed recently, so his absence was understandable. Further, the State Department of Transportation Director, Jade Butay, was also absent although the Maui County DOT Director, Marc Takamori, was present.
Since our testimony was presented to an incomplete council, it’s impact was minimize. More disappointingly, state representative Troy N. Hashimoto did not arrive at the meeting until after testimony closed.
He was a key player in the discussion of state funding since two of those proposed bills which are possibly sources of funding for the NSCR improvement project are issues which he had been publicly addressing. He had also expressed doubts about the local match shortage for the key road segment, as reported by the Department of Public Works Director, Rowena Dagdag-Andaya, and the Maui Planning Organization Executive Director, Lauren Armstrong.
Since he missed both testifiers who spoke of the NSCR concern when the bills were deliberated, he focused on a road project in his central Maui district.
So did our effort have any effect?
Possibly. Our district Senator Roz Baker sat at the MPO meeting and was on time. Also, West Maui Councilor Tamara Paltin will be at the County budget meetings next month. She had questions to clarify our MPO testimony.
Time will tell if the road is built before the high school opens or South Maui NSCR loses out again.
Historic precedent is not favorable.