Bypass work to get an adjustment at busy Keawe Street intersection

Ige directs DOT to get community input for ‘best way to move forward’


Following a deluge of public complaints about a state highways project at the northern terminus of the Lahaina bypass, the state Department of Transportation said it’s making adjustments.

Work at the Keawe Street and Honoapiilani Highway intersection in West Maui will be modified to mitigate traffic backups in the area, according to DOT officials. The contractor is adjusting the sequence of work to account for traffic backups by working in the lane opposite of peak traffic and stopping lane closures when possible.

Field observations at the job site show traffic on Keawe Street and near its intersection with Honoapiilani Highway was localized to the vicinity of the construction area, the department said.

The work is preparing Honoapiilani Highway — from Keawe Street to Kapunakea Street — for the anticipated higher traffic volumes going on and coming off the Lahaina bypass at the interim northern terminus at Keawe Street. The Transportation Department and the contractor are committed to opening in March the unrestricted right-turn lane from Keawe Street onto Honoapiilani Highway along with restriping the northbound lane of Honoapiilani Highway through the intersection.

The project will make the farthest northbound right lane on Honoapiilani Highway dedicated to turning right up Keawe Street. The work coincides with the March opening of the new southern portion of the Lahaina bypass from Hokiokio Place to Olowalu near “cut mountain.” That work is two-thirds completed, DOT officials said.

In an interview Saturday at The Maui News, Gov. David Ige said he has directed the Transportation Department to “engage with the community to look at what’s the best way to move forward with the next phase of the bypass.”

“We do and are seeking federal funding at least to pay for a portion of the cost, and therefore we are required to live within the limits and constructs of the federal funding,” he said.

Ige said he didn’t immediately have access to details of how the federal funding affects the bypass project.

But “I know some of the changes that (state transportation officials) are proposing ­. . . (and) the process and procedures they’ve had to put in place are somewhat tied to federal funds,” he said. “Clearly, I had asked the department to engage the community, talk about what they would be proposing to do and see if there is a way we can comply with the federal requirements at the same time move the project forward in a way that minimizes the impact on the community.”

Ige said the goal of state DOT officials meeting with the West Maui community would be to go over options, what can and can’t be done, “just so that everybody has an understanding what the parameters of the project would be. . . . Then, we can have a conversation about what would be the best way to continue the bypass project.”

In the vicinity of the Honoapiilani Highway-Keawe Street intersection, both the construction work and the plans to change traffic flow patterns include adding and changing lanes, but business operators and residents have said the already-congested area cannot handle more traffic, which would be unsafe for pedestrians and bad for business.

The Transportation Department said that after the Keawe Street project is complete, it would do further analysis, gather data and take into account community input regarding any problems. It also is working with the county to see if other adjustments can be made before the project is complete.

But area residents insist that roadway and traffic plans need to be redone sooner rather than later.

They point to a pedestrian accident on Wednesday along Keawe Street. The incident demonstrates that more lighting and crosswalks are needed in the area.

Maui police Lt. Gregg Okamoto said that, about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, a 34-year-old Lahaina man was struck by a Jeep on Keawe Street when the man crossed the street outside a marked crosswalk toward the entrance of Foodland Farms.

The pedestrian was transported to Maui Memorial Medical Center’s emergency room with injuries not considered life-threatening.

A 2018 Jeep multipurpose vehicle was traveling west down Keawe Street when it hit the pedestrian before coming to a stop.

The driver of the Jeep, a 70-year-old man from California, got out of his vehicle and stayed with the victim until police arrived, Okamoto said.

Area resident Mike Wilkin said in an email to county and state politicians and the transportation officials that, “at a minimum,” there should be pedestrian crossing areas with flashing lights, similar to such lights on crosswalks along South Kihei Road. “Please be proactive to remedy this problem and not wait until there are more accidents or there is a loss of life,” Wilkin wrote.

Jennifer Lake, who also raised an alarm via email, said: “Seriously, does someone have to die before the changes are considered? To me, this is ludicrous. I invite the DOT to sit at the Walgreens intersection for 8 hours during the day and watch how dangerous this situation already is without the increased traffic.”

Lake lives at the Hoonanea condominiums off of Keawe Street.

“Our thoughts are with the pedestrian involved in (Wednesday) night’s crash on Keawe Street and (his) family,” said Shelly Kunishige, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Department. “We will work with the Maui Police Department on the ongoing investigation.”

Work on the Keawe Street area intersection is ongoing from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays, but working hours may be adjusted if heavy traffic is observed.

Recently, the contractor completed saw-cutting the pavement for trenching and surveyed the sidewalk and locations for new traffic signal control boxes, the state said. In February, the contractor will be trenching and installing conduit and backfill for each leg of the intersection.

When work begins on the Keawe Street leg of the intersection, the roadwork-associated closure may be done at night to mitigate traffic congestion, officials said.

Roadwork associated closures can be found at hidot.hawaii.gov/highways/roadwork.

More information also can be found at www.lahainabypass1b-2.com/ or hidot.hawaii.gov/presentations.

The DOT said it is modernizing traffic signal systems at all 80 existing signals on Maui to allow connectivity between signals and to set up an internet “cloud-based” Advanced Traffic Management System.

The system consists of controllers, a travel time system, cellular communications, conflict monitor units and system monitors to enable the Transportation Department to remotely optimize traffic signal timing.

The project was awarded on Jan. 17. Two new traffic signals on the Lahaina bypass will be integrated into the ATMS.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com. City Editor Brian Perry contributed to this report.