Maui transport projects jockey for position

Online survey offers chance to rank priorities for $124 million in funding

The Paia relief route, Kihei collector road and Hana Highway bridges are among the major projects vying for a share of $124 million in funding over the next four years.

Residents can have a say over which transportation projects should take priority after the Maui Metropolitan Planning Organization released a survey on its website Friday.

Nearly 40 projects are included in a draft list of highway and Maui Bus improvements that could receive funding during fiscal years 2019-22. The Transportation Improvement Program can be viewed at maui

mpo.org. It offers a survey to rank the projects and an interactive map with project descriptions.

“The MPO draft TIP list includes projects that alleviate traffic congestion, make it safer for people to walk and bike, provide alternative routes in Paia and Kihei and address vulnerability to coastal erosion and sea level rise,” MPO Executive Director Lauren Armstrong said. “But, with limited funding, we have some tough choices to make.”

The planning organization is in charge of updating the list and overseeing transportation funding.

Maui County is slated to receive $31 million annually to carry out the projects — $25 million from the federal government and a combined $6 million from the state and county. All told, the county is expecting $124 million over the next four years. However, the draft project list includes $160 million in projects.

“We’re going to have to look at deferring some of the projects to keep us within our budget,” Armstrong said.

She said decision-making will involve “working closely with Public Works and the state (Department of Transportation) to understand the most critical facilities from their perspective, so things we can’t put off.”

County officials will ask for public input online and at meetings next month.

Some of the projects being considered include:

* Paia relief route, initial phase. Plans call for developing a two-lane alternative route mauka of Hana Highway to bypass Paia town, a notorious bottleneck during peak traffic hours. The state project is expected to cost $90 million overall and $27.6 million for fiscal years 2019-22.

* Kihei north-south collector road. Plans would involve constructing a new two-lane road with a separated greenway for pedestrians and bikes in the hopes of alleviating traffic along Piilani Highway and South Kihei Road. The county project would cost an estimated $57.8 million, with Phase 1 (Kulanihakoi Street to Namauu Place) totaling $32 million and Phase 2 (Kaonoulu Street to Kulanihakoi Street) costing $25.8 million.

* Bridge and pavement improvement program. The state’s effort to maintain and preserve roadways across Maui would cost $88.8 million overall and $59.2 million for fiscal years 2019-22.

* Hana bridge preservation. Plans would involve rehabilitating or replacing existing bridges. Phase 1 includes Puohokamoa, Kopiliula, Mokulehua, Ulaino, Kailua and Makanali bridges. The state project would cost $27.1 million overall and $13.1 million during fiscal years 2019-22.

* Shoreline protection for Honoapiilani Highway and replacing old buses on Lahaina and Kihei routes are also on the list.

At a planning organization meeting Thursday, some residents spoke against the proposed Paia relief route, which they said would “dump traffic right back into the beach community.” However, Armstrong said the Paia route and some other projects on the list aren’t finalized yet.

“We just really need to make clear that this project list is to discuss projects and their relative priority for the island of Maui,” Armstrong said. “It’s not to say (that) this is the specific alignment of this route.”

The realignment of Honoapiilani Highway from Olowalu to the pali – expected to cost $150 million – is also on the list, though funding hasn’t been allocated for the project over the next four years. Armstrong explained that while funding may not be available for some projects yet, people can still rank them so officials know what to prioritize in the future.

MPO financial specialist Karen Tamaki said that state-funded projects in other counties sometimes fall through, and the state could redistribute funds to Maui County projects.

“As we get into the (Transportation Improvement Program) and actually start doing projects, it gets amended a lot,” said David Goode, Department of Public Works director and former MPO chairman. “So projects come and go. It can get moved in.”

The Kaanapali extension of the Lahaina bypass, which could potentially alleviate traffic at Keawe Street where controversial construction work is ongoing, is not on the list. Armstrong said funding for that may have to come from somewhere else.

“A project of that size, we need to look at alternative funding sources beyond this pot of federal money, because really we have to focus on the safety and repairs with this money,” she said.

While the Transportation Improvement Program only covers four years, 2023-24 is included on the list for planning purposes only. For example, the realignment of Honoapiilani Highway is slated to receive $500,000 in 2023.

“If we put projects in (those years), we’re not committing federal money to it at this point, but they’re essentially in the pipeline,” Armstrong said.

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.