Environmental impact finding clears way for airport project

A finding of no significant environmental impact has been issued on the proposed consolidated car rental facility for Kahului Airport, and officials hope construction can begin in March.

The determination of the project’s impacts is in the current issue of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control’s “Environmental Notice,” posted Monday.

The project needs a special management area permit from the Maui Planning Commission and other governmental approvals, according to the notice. On March 1, the state Department of Transportation submitted an application for an SMA permit.

The airport car rental facility would house all rental agencies in one three-level structure. It would provide airport employee parking on its roof, allowing for more parking in front of the airport. The structure mainly would be used for rental car pickup and return and for car washing and other car-prepping activities.

The facility would be located on 16.7 acres southwest of the current public parking lot and encompassed by the proposed “Airport Loop Road.” That road would allow traffic to flow through the airport area.

The car rental facility project is scheduled to go out to bid on Oct. 17, state Department of Transportation officials said.

The DOT could not immediately confirm the cost for the project, but in August Gov. Neil Abercrombie released “an additional” $7 million for design of roadway improvements and the consolidated car rental facility.

The final environmental assessment found that wetlands near the airport would not be affected as well as federally protected species such as the Hawaiian hoary bat, Hawaiian stilt and Blackburn’s sphinx moth.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requested several measures to ensure the species are protected, including not removing trees or shrubs more than 15 feet tall during the bat’s breeding season and not clearing some shrubbery until after the dry season to protect the host plants for the moths.

No cultural impacts were found.

Based on current available facilities and projected increases in airport passengers at Kahului and their demand for rental cars, additional space for a rental car facility would be 8 acres, or a total of 49 acres, by 2020 and another 12.5 acres, or 53.5 acres, by 2025, according to the environmental assessment.

Currently, seven rental car companies operate on 41 acres, northwest of the terminal and off the airport loop road.

Besides dealing with the need for more car rental space, the new facility would reduce traffic in the airport loop by making more efficient use of shuttles and reducing wait and travel times for rental car customers, the assessment said.

The facility would be able to hold 1,500 to 2,000 rental cars and would be similar to Mainland facilities, airport officials have said.

All customer service desks and offices would be housed in the facility with a general trolley/shuttle connecting the facility and the airport terminal. Currently, each rental car agency has its own shuttle.

There would be 719 airport and car rental employee parking spaces and 400 rental car staging and storage spots on the third floor and a 15,000-gallon fuel tank in the facility.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.