Baptiste may re-examine plan to close Lihu’e’s ‘Eiwa Street

LIHU’E – Kaua’i Mayor-elect Bryan Baptiste said he may take another look at closing ‘Eiwa Street between the County Building and Lihu’e Civic Center as one way of enhancing Lihu’e as a destination as opposed to a place to pass through while going to other parts of the island.

Current Mayor Maryanne Kusaka during her two terms in office eyed plans to close the one-block street, but backed off after getting resistance from local businesses and drivers.

The subject came up as Baptiste addressed the regular monthly meeting of the Lihue Business Association Wednesday morning at Fenton Lee’s Hawaiian Classic Desserts restaurant on Rice Street.

Baptiste, for about 10 more days a member of the County Council, got applause from the 30 people in attendance when he said one of his first orders of business after being sworn in on Monday, Dec. 2, will be to remove the “reserved parking” signs for county employees at the Lihu’e Civic Center parking lot.

“I guess I gotta walk farther to get to work, but I guess I could use it,” he said, opening up a discussion of what to do about Lihu’e’s parking problems.

Both Baptiste and Jim Mayfield of Bank of Hawaii suggested the possibility of developing new parking for county employees across Kuhio Highway from the Lihu’e Civic Center’s round building.

Baptiste said he will solicit county-employee input into potential parking fixes, because “maybe they’ll come up with something better.”

Connie Claussen of Kauai Community Federal Credit Union suggested a “walk-your-town” campaign to encourage people to abandon their cars in favor of hoofing it around Lihu’e, and Michael Buenconsejo of Allstate Insurance’s Lihu’e office suggested a shuttle bus or trolley to run the length of Rice Street, to Nawiliwili Harbor and Kukui Grove, to get even more cars off the road.

“Seems logical,” Baptiste said of the bus or trolley idea.

Some others in attendance bemoaned the demise of the popular crosswalk fronting the Lihu’e post office on Rice Street, with architect Palmer Hafdahl suggesting some “traffic-calming” mechanisms to slow down traffic zipping down four-lane Rice Street.

A painted, textured roadway, like Waikiki’s Kalakaua Avenue in some parts, would allow citizens to take back Rice Street from motorists approaching 50-mile-per-hour speeds down the improved roadway, Hafdahl commented.

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