Maui Business

Interview: Is Honoapi‘ilani Traffic the New “Norm”?

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It’s been two days since the latest road work started on Tuesday on the Honoapiʻilani between Keawe Street and Kapunakea Street.  Maui Now sat down for an exclusive phone interview with Rep. Angus McKelvey today and asked him some direct questions about the project and traffic into and out of Lahaina.

The section of road has been a point of contention among local government leaders and department officials.  Last week, State Rep. Angus McKelvey called on the governor to intervene, saying it would lead to negative impacts including more traffic congestion in West Maui.  Officials with the Department of Transportation defended their stance in carrying out the project saying the criticism directed toward the department is “ill-informed.”  Rep. McKelvey fired back on Friday, reasserting his plea to halt last minute changes to the Keawe Street area of the Honoapiʻilani Highway.

Maui Now graphic.

The Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation issued an update saying it will continue to communicate with the public regarding plans to open the latest phase of the Lahaina Bypass between the project’s southern terminus in Olowalu and Hōkiokio Place in March 2018. 

The Department also issued a follow-up on Wednesday evening (the full text is posted below) detailing their plans moving forward.

In our interview with Rep. McKelvey (full audio posted above), he tells us about his letter to the governor, his feelings about the DOT’s assessment of his concerns and legislation being proposed to address traffic as a whole on Maui and throughout the state.



PC: courtesy Hawaii DOT.

HDOT statement on requests to stop the Lahaina Bypass and Honoapiʻilani Hwy Improvements:

The Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation is aware of demands from members of the West Maui community and locally elected officials to stop work on Lahaina Bypass Phase 1B-2, which is estimated to be completed and opened in March, and the associated project, Honoapiʻilani Highway Improvements – Keawe Street to Kapunakea Street.

“We’ve been meeting with community members and groups anytime there have been concerns about Phase 1B-2 and the plan for the southern terminus and how we will account for traffic volumes at the interim northern terminus at Keawe,” said HDOT Deputy Director for Highways Ed Sniffen. “We are happy to explain the rationale for our decisions, hear and process community concerns, and look for adjustments that we can make within the funding and requirements the project is bound by. Council Member Guzman’s resolution and his threat of legal action to stop a project that is already over two-thirds done and has gone through the environmental process—with the latest environmental document specifically concerning the southern terminus published in 2015—had nothing to do with bringing HDOT to the table for these discussions, we were already there.”

PC: Hawaii DOT.

Yesterday Administrative Director Ford Fuchigami met with Senator Roz Baker, and joined HDOT leadership in a meeting with Maui County Council Member Elle Cochran and Albert Perez. Both meetings were arranged before HDOT got word of Council Member Guzman’s resolution through the media.

Following yesterday’s meeting, Senator Baker reported: “I had a very productive meeting with Administrative Director Ford Fuchigami to discuss the community’s concerns about the current bypass project, and how we can work together to keep lines of communication open to address bypass concerns going forward. I shared my ideas with him for upcoming legislation; and he’s agreed to work with us and the community in a collaborative manner on these proposals.”

As mentioned in an earlier news release on Lahaina Bypass Phase 1B-2 and the Honoapiʻilani Highway Improvements – Keawe Street to Kapunakea Street, HDOT is committed to making adjustments based on data such as information gathered by observation of traffic patterns after the opening of Phase 1B-2 and community feedback.

From HDOT’s perspective:

The Lahaina Bypass is a realignment of Honoapiʻilani Highway to protect the main route to and from West Maui from coastal erosion while tying into the existing highway for as long as it is operational.

There is no intent to cut off access to Honoapiʻilani Highway with the opening of the southern terminus. There are two complete routes between Keawe Street and Kai Hele Ku Street and all portions of Honoapiilani Highway are accessible through the connector roads. Motorists cannot safely access both Honoapiilani Highway and the bypass at the southern terminus without the installation of an interchange, a traffic signal, or a roundabout. These options are not possible without additional funding, further study, and environmental documentation. A breakdown of the additional costs and best case timelines associated with these options follows:

A high speed, grade separated interchange at this location would cost an estimated $50 million, not including land acquisition, and require at least two years for the environmental documentation and permitting; 2 years for design; and, an additional two years of construction.

An at grade interchange could cost an estimated $20 million and would require at least three years for the environmental documentation, shoreline mitigation, and permitting, two years for design, and an additional two years of construction.

Installation of a roundabout could cost an estimated $20 million and would require land acquisition; three years for the environmental documentation, shoreline mitigation, and design; and, approximately 3 years of construction on the existing highway.

Installation of a traffic signal could allow for a left turn movement onto Honoapiʻilani Highway at the southern terminus, but would result in a slowdown of the system as currently designed and could impact the overall efficiency of this route. Cost for this option would be an estimated $10-15 million to account for shoreline mitigation and safety considerations to minimize conflicts.

Considerations for spending a large amount of money at the southern terminus include the likelihood that the existing coastal highway will be inundated by rising seas. Therefore, HDOT believes it more practical to expend resources and funding to extend the realignment.

The Lahaina Bypass is not considered finished after Phase 1B-2 (Hokiokio Place to the southern terminus in Olowalu).

If additional funding is available, HDOT will look to build the Lahaina Bypass Phase 1C, which would extend the bypass north of Keawe Street to beyond Puukolii Road. Phase 1D would take the bypass to Kaanapali.

A significant need is to realign the highway between Olowalu and the pali. HDOT is exploring options to extend the realigned highway past the southern terminus in the future at a location not impacted by high surf, coastal surges and sea level rise. The recent Hawaiʻi Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation Report by the Hawaiʻi Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Commission ( projects that “with 3.2 feet of sea level rise more than 11 miles of major coastal roads would become impassible jeopardizing critical access to and from many communities.”

The state owned right-of-way for the Lahaina Bypass provides the land for HDOT to consider widening to four lanes in the future, should funding become available.

“I fully understand that there are many in West Maui that would like to see the construction on the realignment stopped,” said Sniffen. “However, based on the years of planning with the community and local government, we believe that the opening of the latest phase will have significant benefits for the majority of the community by providing an alternate route to and from West Maui. We also expect the opening of Phase 1B-2 will increase efficiency through the area while providing choices for those that want to go to West Maui.”

HDOT will continue to provide updates on the Lahaina Bypass Phase 1B-2 and the associated project, Honoapiʻilani Highway Improvements – Keawe Street to Kapunakea Street including operational data following the opening of the project.


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