Dramatic changes ahead for Kahului Airport

The governor has released $50 million for highway construction and improvements that will dramatically change how people maneuver around Kahului Airport.

The funds are earmarked for the second phase of the Kahului Airport access road. In January, Gov. Neil Abercrombie released funds for the first phase, from Puunene Avenue to Hana Highway. Work is expected to begin in late summer.

The funds the governor released last week are for the next phase that runs from Hana Highway, about 770 feet on the Paia side of the Dairy Road intersection, to the new “Airport Loop Road.” The new road will bring drivers straight into the terminal area, as opposed to the current curving entrance off of Keolani Place.

The rental car area will be moved into a structure in the currently undeveloped section on the Kahului side of the loop road. Funds totaling $160,000 for the development of plans and studies for car rental facilities including at Kahului Airport were released by the governor last week as well.

Caroline Sluyter, spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation, said that the facility, which will house all rental agencies in one structure, is in the design phase with tentative plans to begin work in February 2014 with completion estimated near the end of 2015.

The Consolidated Car Rental Facility will be able to hold 1,500 to 2,000 rental cars, and customers from all rental car companies will be shuttled together to and from the airport to the facility, similar to what is done at airports on the Mainland, airport officials have said.

There also will be airport employee parking on the roof of the facility, which will open up public parking fronting the baggage claim area, she said.

Sluyter added that Airport Loop Road will not be fully completed until the car rental facility is finished. The gap in the loop road is needed to transport materials and equipment to the facility work site.

The Paia side of the loop, near the commuter terminal, will remain the same but will begin to veer onto the new section of the loop that will bypass the current car rental area.

Keolani Place, the current main road into the airport, will be connected to the loop and become a secondary entrance, Sluyter said.

Haleakala Highway will pass underneath the new road, using a grade-separating structure, she said.

The airport loop will run through the current cellphone lot and UPS facilities. Sluyter said that UPS is in the process of relocating and that several options in the vicinity of the Coral Factory / T-Shirt Factory are being considered.

Work is expected to begin on the new phase of the airport access road in late summer or early fall and will take 12 to 16 months to complete, she said.

Other Maui County airport-related items in the $113 million the governor released for state airports and harbors included:

* $3 million for restroom renovations, including the addition of restroom air conditioning, at Kahului Airport.

* $378,000 for evaluation of pavement conditions at Honolulu International and Kahului airports to produce program reports to fulfill Federal Aviation Administration requirements, to plan future projects and to determine which areas need repairs or reconstruction.

* $198,716 for construction of a new box culvert to replace the existing trapezoidal ditch adjacent to the taxiway at Molokai Airport. This will bring the taxiway safety area into compliance with current FAA regulations.

* Lee Imada can be reached at leeimada@mauinews.com.