Easing the jam at 3-way Waiale-Waiinu intersection

Roundabout, traffic signal among options

Traffic backs up on Waiinu Road as drivers wait to turn onto Waiale Road on Thursday afternoon. This photo was taken at 2:45 p.m. after school had let out. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

A traffic signal or roundabout at the Waiale-Waiinu road intersection in Wailuku, which backs up during morning and afternoon rush hours, will be proposed before the summer by the county Public Works Department.

Nolly Yagin, a Public Works Department traffic engineer, told the County Council’s Water and Infrastructure Committee late last month that the department was awaiting new traffic studies of the area before making a determination. (The issue has since been moved to the council’s Multimodal Transportation Committee.)

Yagin said Wednesday he expects the new study will be completed by the end of March.

The “T” intersection with a stop sign on Waiinu Road has become a bottleneck for traffic coming from Maui Lani Parkway and Mahalani Street near Maui Memorial Medical Center and traffic from Wailuku town to the north and from Maui Lani to the south, where new businesses and homes continue to be built.

In 2017, a roundabout validation report was done for the intersection, but in light of the new developments, Yagin said the department wanted to review the area again.

A roundabout or traffic signal is likely coming for the Waiinu-Waiale road intersection to ease rush-hour traffic tie-ups, like this one at 5 p.m. Thursday. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

An extension of Maui Lani Parkway from the curve near The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the Maui Lani Traditions area, where currently there is a dead end, could ease traffic as well.

Currently, the Waiale-Waiinu intersection sees an average of 1,800 vehicles during a peak hour, Yagin said. Waiale Road in the vicinity of the intersection averages about 13,000 vehicles per day, he added.

At the intersection, other measures to ease traffic flow could be used, including an all-way stop. However, Yagin said a traffic signal or a roundabout is more likely.

Mary Wagner, who lives near the intersection in the Kehalani subdivision, would prefer a roundabout but is pleased that something is being done.

“It’s nightmare at that intersection at the end of the day, country workers getting off,” said Wagner, who retired from the county in November.

She still has to battle the traffic to get to appointments.

“Some people get stuck sitting there for such a long time, trying to come down that hill (Waiinu Road) and turn left,” she said.

She also is concerned about students walking to school without sidewalks along the roads.

One of Wagner’s friends, who almost got into a traffic mishap at the Waiale-Waiinu intersection, drives onto Honoapiilani Highway to get around that intersection.

“I’m sure he’s not the only one,” Wagner added.

Nagin acknowledged that the main complaint at the intersection is the left turn from Waiinu Road onto Waiale Road.

Kristin Holmes, vice president of the Wailuku Community Association, said it has not discussed the intersection, but the group is aware of the traffic issues. The association has discussed another proposed roundabout at the intersection of Maui Lani Parkway and Kamehameha Avenue, which it supports.

She feels the group would probably take the same stance for a roundabout at the Waiale-Waiinu intersection.

Yagin said a signal and roundabout both would work at the intersection, but a roundabout is more “flexible.” He explained that the roundabout could accommodate nearby driveways, such as Maui Memorial Park.

With a traffic signal, the roadway configuration basically would remain the same.

Cost for a roundabout could be around $2.6 million, Yagin said. Cost of a traffic signal could be in the $2.2 million to $2.4 million range.

Currently, there is $300,000 in the budget for the design of traffic improvements for the Waiinu-Waiale intersection.

According to a memo in June from public works to the council, planning and engineering work are anticipated to begin this year for the intersection with land acquisition to be completed in 2020. Design would be wrapped up in late 2020 to early 2021.

Construction is expected to start in fiscal 2021. The county’s contribution is estimated to be $500,000 to $1 million, depending on the final design and Maui Lani’s contribution, with the federal government covering the balance.

Maui Lani is aware of the county’s exploration of the signal and roundabout, the memo said. A condition in a 2006 zoning ordinance says that Maui Lani 100 and its successors will monitor and participate in their share of the signalization of the intersection.

Construction on another roundabout at Maui Lani Parkway-Kamehameha Avenue intersection in Kahului is scheduled for construction before summer begins. The construction time for the $2.4 million roundabout is five months, but Yagin hopes it can be completed sooner. Sometime in October is his target date.

Plans call for doing most of the roadway work during the summer so as not to disrupt school traffic from nearby Pomaika’i Elementary.

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