LAHAINA - State officials and representatives of general contractor Goodfellow Bros. Inc. officially launched the second segment of the Lahaina bypass road, a project three decades in planning that, in 2012, could finally bring traffic relief sought by West Maui residents.
The $24 million project, funded 80 percent by the Federal Highways Administration, will begin in Puamana in the south and build a new two-lane road 1.7 miles mauka to Lahainaluna Road, where work on the bypass's first phase began in December 2008.
That $48 million job, with contractor Hawaiian Dredging Construction, launched the project at the intersection of Lahainaluna Road and Ikena Avenue. It runs north on Ikena to an extension of Keawe Street, which intersects on its makai end at Honoapiilani Highway near the Lahaina Cannery Mall entrance.
Tyler Prepose, of Goodfellow Bros. Inc., prepares to join fellow workers and government officials at the blessing for the next segment of the Lahaina bypass road Friday morning in Lahaina.
The Maui News / AMANDA COWAN photo
West Maui state Rep. Angus McKelvey said the plan is to have both highway segments completed around the same time in 2012 when motorists should then be able to drive from Puamana to Lahainaluna Road and continue to the Keawe Street extension.
With the two segments completed, the new road will allow motorists to avoid congestion in Lahaina town, McKelvey said, and it will be "critically important" for traffic relief and safety if there are motor vehicle accidents or fires in the area.
With three public schools located off Lahainaluna Road and dense housing subdivisions nearby, McKelvey said he has worried about evacuations if there were a major wildfire in the area.
"It could be a recipe for disaster," he said.
The new road will provide an alternative escape route, he pointed out.
West and South Maui state Sen. Roz Baker said she was pleased to see the next phase of the bypass begin.
"It's a great day to see the blessing and to see local people get back to work on a project that's much needed in our community," she said. "I hope the administration (of Gov. Linda Lingle) will look at other projects ready to go and release funds and put more people back to work."
State Sen. J. Kalani English, chairman of the Senate Committee on Transportation, International and Government Affairs, said the project is expected to bring 40 direct construction jobs, and, by an economic multiplier effect, 160 or more jobs overall.
"It's a very timely project," he said. "The workers were there (for the project groundbreaking). They were really enthused. . . . It's a win for everybody."
Michael Formby, interim director of the state Department of Transportation, said employment was one of the reasons the state wanted to proceed quickly with the project.
"West Maui is one of the communities affected most by the downturn in the economy," he said. "The local unions projected a 50 to 75 percent unemployment rate for those in the construction industry, and that is why we wanted to push forward with the next construction phase."
Formby added that the bypass is "on time, on budget and on schedule."
"The West Maui community has been waiting patiently for this bypass project for decades, and now this much-needed relief route is becoming a reality," he said.
McKelvey said he remembers attending a meeting as a teenager in the 1970s when the Lahaina bypass was first discussed as being needed for traffic relief in West Maui.
"It's been 30 years overdue," he said. "I'm glad it's rolling as quick as possible."
McKelvey said the bypass will help West Maui's fast-growing community and enhance it as a center for tourism and commerce.
"It's going to be a huge thing for all of Maui, not just West Maui," he said.
Overall, the bypass road has five phases. Some of the highway's features include drainage system improvements, a two-lane bridge over Kauaula Stream, utility improvements, street lighting, pavement markings and signs.
Future bypass segments will take it north to Kaanapali and south toward Olowalu. Eventually, the road is foreseen as a four-lane highway.
* Brian Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.