Despite refusals, Piilani underpass can be built

For 10 years, the state Transportation and Education departments have been required by the Land Use Commission to build a grade-separated access for the Kihei high school.

There are bridges on Piilani at each end of the high school property: Kulanihakoi north and Waipuilani south.

Kihei Community Association has pushed for a walkway under the Waipuilani bridge since the high school site was announced.

Ed Sniffen, head of state highways, has adamantly refused to consider that underpass because of insufficient vertical clearance.

Sniffen and the Education Department have repeatedly, unsuccessfully, appealed to the LUC to remove the requirement. The high school opening is now delayed.

The Transportation Department recently dug out accumulated silt under the Kulanihakoi bridge and found the bridge foundation was covered with 11 feet of silt since the bridges were built in 1980.

There is 17 feet of clearance from the bridge foundation to the underside of the identical bridges.

It’s now clearly apparent the walkway (underpass) should be built under the Waipuilani bridge at the cost of a few hundred thousand.

An overpass would cost upwards of $25 million, would not be used and would take 10 or more years to build.

With cooperation from state and county, a temporary six-year wooden walkway could be built, by volunteers even, that would allow safe passage under Piilani, and for the high school to open in January 2023.

The state will need at least five years to get funding, plans, approvals and construction to complete a permanent walkway.

Buck Joiner



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