×

New bridge over Wailuku River mulled by County Council

Council members say new crossing needed to advance housing projects

The County Council is looking at creating a permanent public crossing of the Wailuku River at the end of Imi Kala Street in the Millyard. There currently is a crossing that is blocked off by a gate. It is not clear if it is safe enough for general public use. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Maui County Council members will soon look into establishing another public crossing of the Wailuku River at Imi Kala Street in the Millyard in Wailuku, which some members are hoping could spur new housing units and alleviate traffic.

Council Affordable Housing Committee Chairwoman Tasha Kama has asked fellow member Alice Lee, chairwoman of the Water and Infrastructure Committee, to bring up the idea in Lee’s committee.

A county communication item on the possibility of “constructing a bridge over Wailuku River” is on Friday’s council agenda as an item to be referred to committee.

In a memo Kama sent to Lee on Sept. 19, Kama said that “it is my understanding that there have been several housing projects that have been stalled because they were conditioned with the provision of a new crossing of the Wailuku River.”

Citing information from the county Department of Housing and Human Concerns, Kama said there is a 600-dwelling-unit project makai of the existing Kahekili Highway adjacent to the Happy Valley area, as well as a 466-dwelling-unit project (238 of which were workforce housing) mauka of Kahekili Highway.

On Tuesday, Lee said the larger of the projects is in the Piihana Project District and the smaller of the projects is known as Hale Mua. She said the bridge would be near Maui Disposal.

Kama said in her memo that there may be other projects delayed by the lack of roadway capacity across the Wailuku River.

Owners and developers of the two projects mentioned could not be immediately reach for comment.

Kama called the value of an additional Wailuku River crossing “evident,” as there are only two existing crossings, one mauka at Market Street and one makai at Waiehu Beach Road.

“These crossings are approximately 1.5 miles apart. Adding a crossing would reduce the need for travel out-of-direction in order to reach destinations between the two crossings,” Kama wrote.

She added that the existing built environment and cultural resources limit the potential of new crossing locations.

Imi Kala Street already lines up with spot where the council members are considering putting the bridge. There is an existing structure that crosses the river, and Kama said it appears to have the ability to carry vehicles, though it may not be up to par for public use.

She recognized that there will be considerable planning, community outreach and engineering to follow through, along with funding.

Lee said her committee will involve project owners in the discussions, which will include an update on the owners’ and developers’ plans.

She said cost-sharing is a possibility. In addition to a bridge, a traffic signal could be installed at Imi Kala Street and Mill Street. There could also be improvements of an old cane haul road running behind St. Anthony Church and school.

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