Having read the ideas put forth by the council candidates in the recent Garden Isle newspaper article, I was struck with the lack of real, detailed solutions that were put forth by any of the candidates.
Now, I am not saying that they don’t have solutions, but was struck by the lack of specifics put forward. I live here, love this island, and believe that with some out of the box thinking, we can address our traffic problems in logical and cost efficient ways. Then maybe we can feel confident to buy ice cream at the store with the hope that it gets home before it melts.
Let’s use this to address the ideas put forth to solve our traffic crisis.
1. More bike lanes. If any one pays attention, they realize that hardly anyone uses the ones we have. No one is going to bike from Kapaa to Lihue to work or shop, bike to the grocery store and try to drag home four bags of groceries, nor brave our erratic weather to do so. This is a waste of resources.
2. Limit or tax the rental cars. If a prospective tourist is planning to visit , and there are no cars available, they will change their destination, since most visitors have a limited window to vacation due to jobs, children’s school vacations and so on. Or, if the cost is too high, this will also drive them away. We already have the highest average hotel room cost in Hawaii. Now, many would say that is a good thing, but not the people that lose their jobs or income possibilities because of the drop in tourist spending.
3. Increase the bus service. While there is an ongoing efficiency study to improve the current bus system, this also has flaws. Currently, you can’t take beach chairs, coolers or umbrellas on the bus. Since our beaches are our number one attraction, no one is going to take the bus to the beach. Nor will they use it to go shopping if they have bulky items to purchase for the same restrictive reasons.
4. Encourage the hotels to offer shuttles. While this may offer a way for tourists to go to some nearby beach destinations, they will not forego a trip to the North Shore, Poipu or Polihale because the shuttles don’t go there. They will rent a car. Most visitors want the freedom to go where they want, when they want, and for that, they need a car. The hotels on the Westside are not going to offer shuttles to South Shore destinations, as the cost is simply going to be prohibitive. The failure of the North Shore shuttle should be a lesson in how this will most likely not work.
So, are there any viable alternatives. I believe so. One has to simply study the problem and try to identify the worst issues, and then see if there is a solution. While the ideas I list are by no means a 100 percent answer, they offer ways to possibly alleviate some of the worst problems.
The real traffic problems seem to stem from choke points where two lanes merge into one (such as in front of Safeway (Kapaa), where the by bypass feeds into Kuhio highway ( essentially two lanes into one lane) in Waipouli, where Kuhio highway goes from two lanes to one going south past the Wailua bridge, and in the morning especially, at the intersection of Kuhio highway and Kapule highway at Hanamaulu going south.
There is no viable way to widen the road through Kapaa due to the close proximity of the building to the road. It may be possible to utilize the on street parking to allow for one or even two additional lanes, but this would be to the detriment of the shop owners of Kapaa and there would simply be another choke point where there are only two lanes over the Waikaea canal.
Now, we have the existing Wailua bypass one way road south from next to Kawaihau road to the traffic circle that could be widened and made into a two-way road. This would allow southbound traffic to move from north of Kapaa, onto the bypass and travel all the way to Waipouli as it now does. It would also allow northbound traffic to bypass Kapaa entirely. Now, there would need to be traffic light at the end of the bypass and Kuhio highway to regulate the traffic, with the lights at Haleilol and Kumaoo roads coordinated to allow this traffic to transverse through the area before the Kuhio highway traffic is allowed to proceed.
I believe that much of the southbound traffic on Kuhio highway would be siphoned off by the businesses in Kapaa, reducing the load on the main highway, since much of the traffic is people heading to work or to shop in Lihue. However, I believe this traffic signal needs to be installed in any case, because this intersection and the merging traffic is one of the major reasons for the backup going south in this area.
There would also need to be a light where the bypass feeder enters Kuhio highway north of Kapaa. Now, while this does not take one car off the road, it seems that this might be a viable way to help ease the choke point through Kapaa. It is at least worth the time to study. It is much easier to visualize if you look at the area on Google Maps.
There is also the potential to use the emergency bypass as another route to Lihue. This also has pros and cons that can be discussed in a later article, if allowed.
Barry Dittler is a resident of Wailua