Public weighs in on methods to relieve pali traffic woes

Maui Metropolitan Planning panel is considering options to get folks moving

WAILUKU — More buses and routes could be ways to ease traffic along the congested Honoapiilani Highway between Maalaea and West Maui, community leaders told the Maui Metropolitan Planning Organization on Monday.

Kihei Community Association President Mike Moran said that “instead of saying ‘no can do,’ ” the public and panel should see what can be done with available funds. He was referencing recent comments by state Department of Transportation Director Ford Fuchigami, who is a member of the panel but was not at the meeting, that the cost of putting in another road on the pali is prohibitive. Such a project would cost the state between $500 million and $1 billion, Fuchigami said.

What can be done is to “at least reduce bodies off the road” with more mass transit and perhaps public bus routes that could take more West Maui residents to work and back over the pali, Moran said.

West Maui resident and West Maui Taxpayers Association Board Member John Seebart, who also testified before the panel, suggested an express bus from Kahului Airport to Napili, with a minimum amount of stops to reduce the travel time and congestion on the roadways.

“Anybody could get back and forth easier,” he told the organization of the route. “Speaking of myself, I will never drive to the airport again” if the route is established, he said.

In the upcoming months, the panel will be hearing public suggestions for improvements to the bus system, roadways and bicycle and pedestrian facilities on Maui, said Lauren Armstrong, executive director of the organization, a federally mandated transportation planning agency, which was organized last year.

The organization acts as a conduit for $25 million annually in federal funding for transportation projects but does not directly implement the projects, Armstrong explained. Most federal-aid projects require a 20 percent match from the county or the state to qualify for federal funds.

The public’s suggestions will be shared with implementing agencies: the county Department of Transportation, which operates the Maui Bus; the Department of Public Works, which performs improvements to county-owned roads and facilities; and the state’s Department of Transportation, which handles improvements to state-owned roads and facilities.

By October, the agencies will submit project proposals to the Maui MPO for inclusion in the short-term Transportation Improvement Program. The panel then will compile a draft project list to share with the public.

Public comments on the draft project list will be considered as the Maui MPO Policy Board adopts the short-term improvement program in June 2018, Armstrong said.

The Maui improvement program must be included — without changes — in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, which is then approved by the governor and U.S. Department of Transportation, Armstrong said.

“Ultimately, public comments brought to the Maui MPO will be directed in a manner that Maui MPO staff and the Policy Board find most productive,” Armstrong said. “Transportation planning is a complex and multifaceted issue, and we welcome everybody to join the conversation about making improvements to our communities.”

If the public’s requests for transportation solutions are not addressed in the short-term improvement program, the public could try to have solutions considered in the long-range Maui Multimodal Transportation Plan.

Beginning next year, the Maui MPO will work on developing the Multimodal Transportation Plan, which will establish performance targets, consider tradeoffs of various investments in Maui’s transportation system and establish a long-term vision map and financial plan for implementation.

In a letter to the Maui MPO, the West Maui Taxpayers Association supported bike-share programs that enable people to make short trips using a network of publicly accessible bikes and biking infrastructure; the West Maui Greenway bike and pedestrian trails; slowing down traffic on Lower Honoapiilani Road and realigning Honoapiilani Highway between the pali and Olowalu because sections are eroded and being lost to sea level rise and wave activity.

For more information on the Maui MPO, see www.mauimpo.org.

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

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