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Transportation Department Responds to Criticism Over Lahaina Bypass Adjustments

January 11, 2018, 9:26 AM HST · Updated January 11, 9:26 AM
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Photo: Hōkiokio access to Lahaina Bypass via Honoapiʻilani Highway. PC: by Wendy Osher.

The state Department of Transportation today responded to criticism over proposed adjustments to the Lahaina Bypass Phase 1B2 and work at the Keawe Street interim northern terminus in West Maui.

The statement comes in the wake of concerns raised by Rep. Angus McKelvey, who presented a letter to Governor David Ige yesterday, formally requesting that he intervene and stop the DOT from implementing what he called “last-minute changes” to the Keawe Street intersection of the Honoapiʻilani Highway.

According to Rep. McKelvey, the work involves the removal of one of the existing northbound lanes from the highway, cordoning off the right lane for through traffic with hard barriers.

Rep. McKelvey said the change was not part of any planning documents; and will have a detrimentally profound and negative impact that will result in more traffic congestion. He is seeking a temporary delay to allow time for collaboration with the community for a better solution.

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DOT Deputy Director for Highways Ed Sniffen issued a statement today saying the criticism directed toward the department is “ill-informed.”

“The opening of this latest phase of the Lahaina Bypass from the vicinity of ‘cut mountain’ in Olowalu to Hōkiokio Place protects an important portion of the coastal highway to West Maui by moving it inland while offering another route for those headed towards Kāʻanapali.”

According to Sniffen, the opening of Phase 1B2 “will increase the efficiency of the two routes in the area as those that want to go from Olowalu to Keawe Street will no longer have to go through beach and neighborhood traffic. Those wanting to go into Lahaina town or to access the beach will have several options to do so from the bypass.”

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Rep. McKelvey had said the changes at Keawe Street would “force drivers to move to the left before the barriers or be forced in the opposite direction of where they are going and required to loop around the entire town of Lahaina to re-merge. Besides forcing all the two-lane traffic to one lane, causing gridlock on the heart of the town itself, the isolation of the lane for right turn traffic only does not address the underlying capacity issues that started this discussion.”

Transportation officials responded saying, “Keawe Street is being modified to have a free right turn onto Honoapiʻilani Highway to accommodate the additional northbound traffic from the bypass as projections through 2020 show that 70% of cars will utilize the bypass from Olowalu to Keawe Street. The Mauka through lane on Honoapiʻilani Highway will be modified as it approaches Keawe Street to allow for the free right turn lane’s safe implementation.”

According to DOT officials, “Should a driver heading north on Honoapiʻilani at Keawe not be able to access the through lane, he or she can turn around on one of Keawe’s side streets or reenter Honoapiʻilani through one of the southern connector roads such as Lahainaluna Street, Hōkiokio Place, Kai Hele Kū Street, or the South Connector Road.”

In response to criticism over community input involving the changes, DOT officials said:

“HDOT Deputy Director for Highways Ed Sniffen and the Maui District Engineer met with the West Maui Taxpayers Association in the first week of December 2017 to discuss WMTA concerns and potential solutions. HDOT agreed to work with the community on adjustments based on field observations following the opening of Phase 1B2 of the bypass and also agreed to review access issues on Keawe Street with the potential to cause congestion. This was in addition to the public meetings held over the decades since the Lahaina Bypass was first conceived of. The latest of these meetings were held in 2007 and 2015. Minutes and sign in sheets from these public meetings can be found in the Lahaina Bypass, Proposed Relocation of the Southern Terminus – Final Environmental Assessment/Finding of No Significant Impact, Vol II of II (2015) available online.”

The environmental documents for the Lahaina Bypass, which includes Environmental Impact Statements from 1990, 2002, and 2015, are posted on the HDOT website.

The Hawaiʻi DOT released the following additional information:

The initial Lahaina Bypass Project consisted of the development of a bypass route between Puamana Park and Hanakaʻōʻō Point near Kāʻanapali. The widening of Honoapiʻilani Highway between Hanakaʻōʻō point and Honokōwai was also proposed as part of this action. A Record of Decision for the Environmental Impact Statement was approved on June 18, 1991, by the Federal Highway Administration. The southern terminus in this initial alignment would have functioned the same as what is being constructed today. Traffic from Honoapiʻilani Highway flows onto the Bypass and a new Southern Connector would have been constructed.

Subsequent to the initial EIS, the alignment of the project was modified to extend the northern terminus of the bypass from Hanakaʻōʻō Point to Honokōwai and to extend the southern terminus from Puamana to Launiupoko. A Record of Decision for the Supplemental EIS was approved on October 14, 2003 by the FHWA.

Subsequent to the Supplemental EIS, HDOT did an Environmental Assessment  to relocate the southern terminus of the Lahaina Bypass from the approved terminus point at Launiupoko to the vicinity of the former Olowalu Landfill. The intent of this EA was to determine whether extending the Lahaina Bypass an additional 4,800 feet, as measured along Honoapiʻilani Highway, provides benefits towards preservation of the State Highway System from coastal hazards as well as providing enhanced capacity between Central Maui and West Maui. On December 9, 2015, the Final Environmental Assessment/Finding of No Significant Impact was submitted.

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