No road relief in sight for either side of island

Rice Street through Lihu’e may have a new, four-lane finish, but as far as state-sponsored traffic relief, the clich remains “don’t hold your breath.”

The four-lane Kaumuali’i Highway expected to help ease congestion for those traveling in either direction between Lihu’e and Kipu Road, expected to be well into its two-year design phase by now, has not yet even entered its design phase, according to state Department of Transportation Highways Division personnel in Lihu’e.

After the design phase comes another six months for the construction bidding process, followed by two years of construction, pending availability of construction funding, said Glenn Yamamoto, acting Kaua’i district engineer with the DOT Highways Division.

The total widening project on Kaumuali’i Highway, from Lihu’e to the Maluhia Road Tree Tunnel, is estimated to cost $150 million, with the first phase, making the highway four lanes from Lihu’e to Kipu Road on the west side of Puhi, a $40 million project, he said.

The design contract has not yet been finalized with the consultant, he said. State engineers are trying to get the design contract released from the state contracts office, so it can be signed by the design consultant, said Yamamoto.

In the Kapa’a area, an environmental impact statement on yet-to-be-determined fix or fixes in and around Kuhio Highway won’t be ready until January, of 2005, followed by a lengthy design phase, followed by an even lengthier construction phase, if the $200 million for the roadwork can be found, said Yamamoto.

Even a private-sector roadway improvement, the extension of Nuhou Street (the intersection of Kaumuali’i and Nuhou is at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School in Puhi) and Kaneka Street to which would provide an alternate route into and out of Lihu’e around Kukui Grove Center to Nawiliwili Road, is also behind schedule.

Grove Farm officials had hoped the roads would be open before the Christmas holidays, but a January opening seems reality now, as rainy weather delayed construction progression as planned.

It was once estimated that it costs around $1 million a mile to build new roads, but Grove Farm’s new roads, Nuhou and Kaneka streets, are a total of around a mile long, and the project is $5 million.

The new Nuhou Street will eventually wind from an intersection with Nawiliwili Road, meandering behind the Kukui Grove Park and Pavilion, linking up with an existing portion of Nuhou that now dead-ends behind the middle school, running to its terminus at Kaumuali’i Highway between the school and Kilohana.

Kaneka Street today is only a short stretch of pavement behind the middle school, but eventually will be connected all the way to Puhi Road, where Kauai Foreign Cars is located.

The roads next month will offer a third option of traversing the congested Lihu’e-Puhi corridor, the others being Kaumuali’i Highway and Halehaka Road accessed from Kipu Road from the west and Niumalu from the east.

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

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