KAHULUI - A freeway-style ramp overpass could be part of the Kahului Airport access road that could break ground as early as the end of the year, state Department of Transportation officials said Monday evening.
About 10 people attended the public meeting at Maui Waena Intermediate School to hear about the long-awaited first phase of the airport access road designed to alleviate traffic on Dairy Road, which is crowded with visitors and residents trying to get to the airport and area big-box stores and other businesses. The highway also will alleviate traffic on Keolani Place near the airport.
The freeway-style ramp overpass is one alternative considered for the intersection of the access road with Hana Highway.
If that is the option selected, the overpass will be a "first" for Maui, said Jadine Urasaki, Transportation Department deputy director, prior to the meeting. It also is the most costly alternative at $45 million.
The first phase of the access road will begin at the intersection of Puunene Avenue and Kuihelani Highway, will travel northeast toward the airport and curve slightly away from homes on the north side of Dairy Road, and will then intersect with Pakaula Street, which leads to Walmart. Motorists who want to get to Dairy Road will make a left turn at the intersection, those who want to go to the airport will proceed straight and those wanting to go to Walmart and Home Depot will turn right.
The access road will then travel behind the Kahului Fire Station and the Maui Marketplace and intersect with Hana Highway. The first phase will then run about 1,100 feet past the Hana Highway intersection toward the airport.
The second phase, which leads to the airport, is being designed separately and administered by the state Airports Division. This phase is not covered in the environmental assessment that is currently under public review and was discussed at the meeting.
The first phase of the access road could cost between $25 million and $45 million, depending on which construction alternatives are chosen, Urasaki told The Maui News.
She said 80 percent of the funding will come from federal funds and the rest from the state.
The public could decide to ditch the new road and leave Dairy Road as is or choose to widen Dairy Road, an option which would involve acquiring adjacent residential and commercial properties, according to the assessment.
Along with the alternatives for the access road, the state has given the public three alternatives regarding how the access road will intersect with Hana Highway. They are:
* Installation of traffic signals at the intersection. Cost: $25 million.
* Construction of two "loops" on the sides of the airport access intersection. For traffic on Hana Highway, motorists making left turns will travel into a loop that will get them to the access road. There will be traffic signals at the end of the loops. Cost: $40 million.
* Construction of a bridge-type, freeway-style elevated highway with loops. This would eliminate the intersection of cars traveling along Hana Highway, allowing traffic freer flow on both highways. Cost: $45 million.
Jon Muraoka, project manager and vice president at Fukunaga & Associates, told the audience that simply installing traffic signals at the intersection was the "most feasible solution."
State officials noted that the access road will be the preferred route for the large construction and hauling trucks traveling from the harbor, Kihei and Lahaina.
Also, motorists making the left-hand turn from Puunene Avenue onto Dairy Road toward the Maui Marketplace should see less traffic congestion because the airport access road would give cars another option.
An environmental assessment for the access road has been prepared and is available for review at the state Office of Environmental Quality Control website at oeqc.doh.hawaii.gov and at the Kahului Public Library. Public comment on the document will be accepted through April 23.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.