Even short-term Kapa’a traffic fixes are many, many years down the road

WAIPOULI – Even at 6:30 in the evening, a string of red brake lights can be seen, signifying traffic piling up along Lihu’e-bound Kuhio Highway fronting the Coconut Marketplace.

Those familiar with Wailua-Waipouli-Kapa’a traffic by becoming accustomed to being stuck in it say that where the Kapa’a bypass road merges into Kuhio near the Marketplace Cinemas is where the backup toward Kapa’a starts.

Others moan that the intersections of Kuhio at the entrance to Wailua Houselots (Haleilio Road) or at Coco Palms (Kuamoo Road) are where congestion is worst.

The situation at present is that it can take around four minutes to travel 0.6 miles on Kuhio Highway between the bypass road and Waipouli Town Center, and nearly eight minutes to go 1.3 miles from Waipouli Town Center to the center of Kapa’a.

That’s during morning or afternoon peak periods, when much of Kuhio Highway from the Wailua River to Kapa’a town is either at or over peak traffic capacity.

And even the slightest bit of relief, a road running from the Kapa’a bypass road to an intersection near Waipouli Town Center, is an estimated seven years and $3 million in state and federal funding away.

A proposal is being made to extend Pouli Road next to Waipouli Town Center from Kuhio to the temporary bypass road, and build a better bridge over a canal at what is now the end of Pouli Road.

The state Department of Transportation Highways Division projects the total cost of that project to be just over $3 million, and take two years to acquire funding and contracting, four years to acquire land, plan and design, and one year to build.

But if the Pouli Road connector, as the proposal is being called, is to become a Kaua’i DOT-Highways Division priority, another project already on the priority list may have to be sacrificed, explained Steve Kyono, Kaua’i DOT-Highways Division district engineer.

If you ask elected officials and Kapa’a businesspeople gathered around a small table how long it will take for long-term traffic fixes to be implemented, the answers range from five to 20 years.

And that’s after the plans already being in the planning phase for 10 years, according to Kyono.

Kyono met with members of the Kapaa Business Association and a variety of elected officials last week at Fishbowls restaurant, where the early-evening traffic jam was seen live by all attendees.

About the only positive news to come out of the meeting is that by year’s end the state will own outright the Kapa’a bypass road, so it can remain open 24 hours a day (it closes for the night now at 9 p.m.) and that an extension of that road beyond its intersection with Olohena Road, behind Kapaa New Park toward Hauaala Road, is in the planning phase.

Design for the intersections of the bypass road, Olohena, Malu Street and Kukui Street, to be a roundabout intersection (with traffic flowing in a counterclockwise, circular direction) is expected to be done by the summer of 2003, with construction to take about a year, Kyono said.

The bypass road will continue behind the Kapa’a New Park, linking up with Haua’ala Road.

Other good news is that there are federal funds available in a variety of levels for a variety of roadway purposes, Kyonosaid.

Congestion management, which commuters and visitors understand is a need in the Kapa’a-Wailua area, is one such level of relief for which federal funds are available, he added.

Long-term traffic fixes, including the potential of having a four-lane Kuhio Highway from Wailua to Kapa’a and/or establishment of a permanent mauka Kapa’a bypass road, are much further down the road, Kyono said.

In order to accommodate a four-lane Kuhio Highway from Wailua to Kapa’a, some 70 residences and 25 businesses would have to be relocated, he said.

There are studies being conducted now to look at both short- and long-term fixes for Eastside traffic woes.

Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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