LIHU’E – Traffic-flow engineers say westbound traffic on Kaua’i turning left
onto Nani Street in Puhi is at the root of jams that slow cars to a snail’s
pace along Kaumuali’i Highway between Lihu’e and Puhi.
The engineer, from
ParEn (Park Engineering), explained that something of a domino effect results
when one driver taps his brake pedal and others behind follow suit.
expert appears to be right, as drivers who regularly traverse that section of
the highway between Lihu’e and Puhi can clearly see under closer
Before the traffic signal at Nuhou Road at the new middle
school was activated, it was Nani Street traffic that began the congestion. The
new signal, especially during the morning and afternoon peak periods, slows
traffic even more.
For traffic heading into Lihu’e during the morning peak
period, though, it is the amount of traffic all bent on arriving at Lihu’e-area
destinations in time for work or school that causes traffic to back up from
Puhi past the Tree Tunnel most weekday mornings.
There is relief on the
horizon, though construction funds for a highway improvement have not been
secured. The state Department of Transportation is poised to move into the
design phase for converting Kaumuali’i Highway from two lanes to a four-lane
road, from Lihu’e to just beyond the Tree Tunnel.
ParEn is a consultant to
the DOT for the project, which recently was deemed to have no significant
environmental impact by the state Office of Environmental Quality Control.
Anyone wishing to challenge that finding has until Sept. 22 to do so, according
to the agency.
While seven miles seems like a short distance, completing
the entire project likely will take longer than one mile a year once
construction starts, explained Glenn Yamamoto, acting Kaua’i district engineer
with the DOT’s highways division.
Barring a public challenge to the finding
of no significant impact, the design phase of the widening project will take
two years, he said.
If construction funds are available, phased
construction will begin, with the Lihu’e-to-Puhi stretch the first phase. The
first phase is estimated to cost $30 million to $40 million, and will include
construction of a new two-lane bridge near the Lihu’e Plantation mill.
first phase is expected to take two years to complete, once construction
begins. Again, Yamamoto cautioned that the timetable is contingent upon funding
The DOT is looking at 80 percent of the funds from the U.S.
Federal Highway Administration, and 20 percent from the Hawai’i
With a total project price tag of somewhere in the
neighborhood of $100 million, that would mean getting $20 million in state
Staff writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at 245-3681 (ext.
224) and [email@example.com]