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County moves to relocate bus hub

Lease for island’s busiest transit hub at mall expires in January

The county Department of Transportation is taking steps to relocate its busiest transit hub from the Queen Ka’ahumanu Center to a parcel near the Kahului Public Library, a move that’s been in the works since mall officials decided in 2017 not to renew its lease with the county.

The new $2 million transit hub would be built on 0.85 acre at the corner of Vevau and School streets, close to current and future housing projects. It would include a ticket booth, a restroom and storage building, roof structures to cover the passenger waiting area and bus loading areas, and a parking lot. With the relocation of the hub, the 11 existing bus shelters at the mall would be removed.

A draft environmental assessment for the project was published May 23 in the Office of Environmental of Quality Control’s “The Environmental Notice.”

The county has been working to secure an alternative site for the transit hub since the shopping center decided in October 2017 that it would not be renewing the lease for the hub, located next to Longs Drugs. The lease expires Jan. 31, 2020.

Toni Rojas, the mall’s former marketing director and now vice president of business and community development, explained last year that the center wasn’t built to handle the growing number of riders using the county system.

In December, the Maui County Council voted to allow then-Mayor Alan Arakawa to enter into an agreement with the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp. and the state Department of Accounting and General Services to exchange the county’s old Wailuku Post Office site for state land near the mall to build the new transit hub.

Officials say the location is ideal for residents because it’s next door to the existing Waterfront Apartments and across the street from the future Kahului Lani affordable senior housing development, a 165-unit project that is slated for completion in 2020. It’s also across the street from Foodland and not far from the current hub.

However, according to the draft assessment, construction of the project would take about 10 months, and with the final assessment still to be completed, the new transit hub may not be finished before the county’s lease at the mall expires.

Council Member Yuki Lei Sugimura, chairwoman of the Multimodal Transportation Committee, said Sunday that Transportation Director Marc Takamori “is in communication” with mall officials make sure there won’t be a break in service while the transit hub is being relocated. She wasn’t sure whether that would be in the form of a lease extension, but she said the county understands the need to keep the hub running.

“It is the transportation hub for the whole island — that’s how important it is,” she said.

Takamori was out of the country and could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

The 2016 Maui Short Range Transit Plan called the Queen Ka’ahumanu Center hub “the heart of the current system.” Eight of the Maui Bus system’s 13 routes originate at the mall hub, which is already over capacity and can’t be expanded within its current location, the transit plan said.

The mall transit hub averaged 1,450 daily passenger boardings, more than double the 670 average daily passenger boardings at the second busiest stop, The Wharf Cinema Center in Lahaina.

The state has committed $2.5 million to the new hub, and the council budgeted $650,000 in the current fiscal year for its design. County funding would lapse on Dec. 31, according to the fiscal year 2020 capital improvement projects bill.

To view the full draft assessment, visit oeqc2.doh.hawaii.gov/EA_EIS_Library/2019-05-23-MA-DEA-Kahului-Transit-Hub-Relocation.pdf.

Comments are due June 24 and can be sent to Takamori via email at marc.takamori@co.maui.hi.us, by phone at 270-7511 or by mail at 2145 Kaohu St., Trask Building, Suite 102, Wailuku 96793.

Comments should also be copied to Charlene Shibuya, senior associate at consultant Munekiyo Hiraga, either by email at charlene@munekiyohiraga.com, by phone at 244-2015 or by mail at 305 High St., Suite 104, Wailuku 96793.

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