The second section of the Lahaina Bypass, a 1.7-mile run from Lahainaluna Road to Hokiokio Place in Puamana, will be blessed and opened Dec. 17, Gov. Neil Abercrombie's office said.
The blessing will be held at 10:30 a.m. for the section of road. The highway, which has been three or four decades in the making, is designed to help motorists bypass intersections in town to reduce congestion.
The opening of the latest segment, which basically had been completed in the summer, has been held up for months because of indemnification issues with landowners, said West and South Maui Sen. Roz Baker on Thursday.
"It's very exciting," she said. "To have the phase finished for some time and to not be able to use it has been problematic."
"I'm stoked; it's finally going to be open," said Rep. Angus Mc-Kelvey, who represents West Maui. "Merry Christmas, Lahaina."
The new section will help divert traffic away from the busy Lahainaluna Road-Honoapiilani Highway intersection with students, parents, teachers and other staff at the three schools on Lahainaluna Road able to use the new highway, Baker said.
In addition, the bypass will improve travel to the Lahaina Cannery Mall section of town and to Napili, she said.
The first part of the highway, opened in March, ran from Lahainaluna Road to Keawe Street. It was only 0.8 miles but included the 360-foot-long Kahoma Stream Bridge. The entire 2.5-mile span of the current bypass runs from Keawe Street and Hokiokio Place in Puamana.
The next section of the 9-mile project will take the bypass through Launiupoko to the old Olowalu dump, Mc-Kelvey said. He believed that the project was in the final environmental impact statement stage and has funding.
On the other side of the bypass, the initial vision called for the highway to reconnect with Honoapiilani Highway just past the Kaanapali resort area, said McKelvey.
Beyond that, McKelvey and Baker said, improving the pali portion of Honoapiilani Highway looms with no simple or cheap alternatives. It is a curving two-lane highway - the only major access from the west side to the rest of the island - that periodically is shut down due to a traffic accident or fire.
"That's what people are really interested in," said Baker.
No matter what option is selected, "it will be expensive, and it won't make everyone happy," she said.
McKelvey agreed, adding that he would like the state to consider an option used in Sydney, Australia, when a landslide took out a part of a road similar to Honoapiilani Highway along the pali. He said that officials there built a suspension bridge road into the mountainside that was as safe and reliable as a regular road.
Another option calls for the road to go higher up the mountainside where there are no gorges. McKelvey said that one of the problems with that option currently is that it would run through the wind farm above Olowalu.
The Lahaina Bypass has run into challenges throughout the years, including bid protests, redesigns, pre-contact archaeological finds and condemnation of land.
"It was a major, major project," Baker said. "Unfortunately, those things don't go as fast."
"I am just thrilled we are going to bless it and open it in time" for the children to return to school after the holidays, she said.
* Lee Imada can be reached at email@example.com.