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$15M upgrades proposed to ease traffic on Puunene Avenue

Traffic lines Puunene Avenue in March 2020. The state Department of Transportation is proposing to widen the road and add two more lanes to improve traffic flow for commuters and freight transport as well as increase safety for bicyclists and pedestrians. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Improvements and road widening are being proposed for Puunene Avenue to reduce congestion, improve traffic flow for residential commuters and freight vehicles, and increase safety for pedestrians.

“The project is designed to meet the needs of the community,” according to a draft environmental assessment published earlier this week in the Office of Planning and Sustainable Development’s “The Environmental Notice.”

“It would reduce traffic congestion to provide a safe and efficient transportation system not only for vehicles but bicyclists and pedestrians.”

Project plans include adding two additional vehicle lanes and shared shoulders on Puunene Avenue in Kahului. Traffic signal poles at Papa Avenue would be relocated to accommodate the roadway widening.

New sidewalks on both sides of Puunene Avenue, linking Wakea Avenue to Kuihelani Highway, will be constructed, too.

A map shows the section of Puunene Avenue where road Graphic courtesy of Department of Transportation widening and other improvements are planned.

Bioswales and a shallow underground drainage system would be installed along the length of the 1.2-mile road to “improve water quality and reduce the impact that roadway stormwater would have on the existing drainage system,” according to the draft assessment.

Puunene Avenue extends from Kahului Bay near the east side of Kahului Harbor to Kuihelani Highway, before transitioning into Maui Veterans Highway, just south of Kuihelani Highway/ Dairy Road.

The project area is located along a 0.6-mile segment of Puunene Avenue between Wakea Avenue and Kuihelani Highway in a mostly residential area.

Overall, this route serves work and school commuters, shoppers, travelers and public transit, as well as serves as a primary highway for Maui’s freight system.

“These freight routes support the movement of freight to and from the Kahului Harbor and the Kahului Airport,” according to the report. “The Hawaii Statewide Freight Plan identifies Kaahumanu Avenue as one of the prioritized freight routes that need to be widened. The widening of Puunene Avenue would provide congestion relief for both Puunene Avenue and Kaahumanu Avenue.”

Another objective of the project as noted in the report is to improve the safety for bicyclists and pedestrians by providing “continuous, paved, shared shoulders and sidewalk paths” along both sides of Puunene Avenue.

This project is identified in the Maui Metropolitan Planning Organization long-range transportation plan called “Hele Mai Maui.”

Depending on the availability of resources as well as state and federal funding, construction is anticipated to begin in early 2023 and be completed in late 2025.

The estimated construction cost would depend on the final design and winning construction bid, but preliminary estimates show that road construction and improvements would cost around $15 million.

Public comments are due by Sept. 7 by emailing the state of Hawaii Department of Transportation at dennis.silvajr@aecom.com.

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.

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