Available funds fall short of meeting highway needs

mt kihei traffic 2-4-17

Simply put, there isn’t enough federal and state money to pay for all of Maui County’s highway maintenance and expansion needs — now projected to cost $3.1 billion through 2035, members of the Maui Metropolitan Planning Organization heard last week.

In the next 18 years, a long-range transportation plan calls for Maui County to get about $1.2 billion, or 18 percent, of the state Department of Transportation Highways Division’s state and federal funds through 2035, said Ken Tatsuguchi, head planning engineer for the division.

Most federal-aid projects require a 20 percent match from the county and/or the state to qualify for federal funds.

Under the long-range plan, most of the money would go toward roadway maintenance instead of new and wider highways to ease congestion, Tatsuguchi said.

“We have only one-third of the funds (needed) for the federal aid system here for Maui District,” he said. “It’s really to keep what we got.”

Financial restraints force planners to prioritize projects, to “look at how to spend the money,” he said.

He noted that a Midwestern state governor and transportation director chose to invest in new roadway projects, while neglecting existing roads.

“They got fired,” Tatsuguchi said. “All the roads were in bad shape.”

Leaving roads unmaintained could lead to unsafe conditions, he said, while giving a presentation on the Federal-Aid Highways 2035 Transportation Plan for the District of Maui.

The state developed the 2035 plan, taking public input during various meetings and sessions with small groups. Released in 2014, the plan includes a list of potential long-range traffic capacity solutions. These are road and highway expansion projects throughout the Valley Isle, which include the long-awaited, Kihei-to-Upcountry connector highway and additional travel lanes from Maalaea to Launiupoko.

The 2035 long-range plan could be called a “wish list” because it’s not “fiscally constrained,” meaning it doesn’t consider available funding.

The long-range plan developed by the Maui MPO will need to take into account actual funding available, so it is unlikely that all or most of the projects listed on the state’s long-range 2035 plan would be on the Maui long-range MPO plan, said Maui MPO Executive Director Lauren Armstrong.

She added that the Maui group will be working over the next few years to update the long-term project list with technical and financial analysis and public input.

But just because a project is not listed on the Maui long-term plan doesn’t mean it cannot happen or cannot be listed on a short-term project planning list, called the State Transportation Improvement Program.

Armstrong said federal regulations only require that projects selected for short-term plans be consistent with the goals and objectives of the long-range plan.

Some of the projects listed on the state’s 2035 long-range plan include:

• $650 million for two additional lanes from Maalaea to Launiupoko along Honoapiilani Highway.

• $173 million for two additional lanes from Kuihelani and Piilani highways along Mokulele Highway.

• $136.5 million for a Kihei-to-Upcountry connector from Piilani to Haleakala highways.

• $127.9 million for a Kihei mauka bypass, from Mokulele Highway to Kanani Road.

• $121.4 million for two additional lanes from Wailuku to Maalaea along Honoapiilani Highway.

Overall, Tatsuguchi said the $3.1 billion total of needs for Maui were broken down into five groups. Those groups and funding estimates are:

• System preservation, $406 million.

• Safety (such as preventing shoreline erosion, hillside protection), $680 million.

• Capacity (building new roads), $1.9 billion.

• Congestion (synchronizing lights, adding measures to reduce back ups), $60 million.

• Other (planning, landscaping), $60 million.

The 2035 plan developed a model for distribution of future funds.

System preservation and safety were to receive 45 percent and 18 percent of funds, respectively. (A total of 63 percent.)

Capacity programs were assigned 25 percent; congestion programs, 10 percent; and other programs, 2 percent.

The state’s 2035 plan acknowledges that the state is not expected to have the funding available to implement all the solutions recommended, but it says the state’s leadership, including the Legislature, could consider a variety of ways to fund transportation needs.

These include implementing mileage-based user fees for drivers to pay for how far they travel on public roadways, public-private partnerships, impact fees on new development and a general excise tax increase.

The state’s 2035 plan will be discussed at the next Maui MPO Technical Advisory Committee meeting, which is set for July 21.

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

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