Gov. Neil Abercrombie has signed off on the final environmental review for the proposed Kihei high school campus, allowing the long-planned project to move forward.
A final environmental impact statement was filed with the state in September, finding that the school would not have a significant impact on traffic along Piilani Highway and surrounding areas when it opens in 2016.
That's despite the campus being designed with a single entry and exit point off of the highway and a projected first-year population of 800 students and 120 staff. The favorable traffic study did not take into account other large projects planned along the highway.
Even with the governor's approval of the environmental review document, the $160 million project still needs to be funded by the Legislature before it can be put out to bid for design and construction, according to Department of Education spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz.
From there, the awarded design-build entity will need to obtain county and state land-use approvals, including an amendment to the county's Kihei-Makena Community Plan and a change in zoning.
The project also needs to obtain a state land use district boundary amendment from the state Land Use Commission.
The Department of Education is working to consolidate the two parcels of vacant agricultural land for the 77-acre campus to allow for development to proceed. In January, the state acquired the parcels - previously owned by Kaonoulu and Haleakala ranches - which are mauka of the highway between Kulanihakoi and Waipuilani gulches.
With regard to mitigation efforts called for in the environmental review, the study determined that increased vehicular traffic caused by the school can be adequately controlled by adding a traffic signal system to the Kulanihakoi Street-Piilani Highway intersection and having dedicated turning lanes in and out of the campus.
In addition to cars, the environmental review said the new school would increase pedestrian and bicycle traffic, which will require upgrades to bike lanes and sidewalks.
The community and state officials have long envisioned a high school campus for Kihei, where currently Kihei Charter School is the only campus serving grades 9 to 12 in South Maui.
The Department of Education says 704 students from Kihei attend high schools outside of Kihei. Maui High School was over capacity in the 2011-12 school year by more than 200 students, while Baldwin High School was near capacity that year.
The project's environmental impact statement can be viewed online at oeqc.doh. hawaii.gov.
* Nanea Kalani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.