Yukimura’s traffic relief plan backed

A proposal by Kaua’i County Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura for an integrated county transportation plan to significantly reduce traffic congestion islandwide drew support at a council committee meeting Thursday.

During a convening of the council’s planning committee at the historic county building, it was announced Daniel Hamada, superintendent of the Kaua’i school district, and people in the tourism business, supported Yukimura’s plan.

Others supporters said they would like to see more bicycle lanes and others favored the purchase of more buses over plans by the state Department of Transportation for more multi-lane roads on state highways.

Opposition was slight, but an ardent critic, Glenn Mickens of Kapa’a, reiterated his stand from an earlier meeting that he felt the plan was not practical. Yukimura said that every initiative starts with creativity and hope.

Her proposed resolution was deferred to the council’s planning committee for further discussion.

Before her plan can move forward, vice chair Jimmy Tokioka said Gov. Lingle’s administration, county officials and the public should be “brought the table” to get their response to what Yukimura is proposing.

Through her resolution, Yukimura has asked Mayor Bryan Baptiste’s administration to work with the DOT to develop a study and a plan on Kaua’i’s traffic congestion.

In a collaborative effort, both entities would work with the County Bikeways Committee, the county bus transportation manager and interested citizens.

Yukimura’s plan calls for coordination of vehicular traffic, public transportation, bikeways and pedestrian activities.

Yukimura said implementation of her traffic plan would help preserve Kaua’i’s rural ambiance, complement the island’s visitor industry and support economic development.

Yukimura said Hamada has asked to be invited to the next committee meeting on the matter to find out how the plan, if implemented, would affect the school’s public bus system. She said she also would like to have DOT officials at the meeting.

A supporter of the plan, Gabriela Taylor, said she liked the idea that the plan promotes bicycle use. “To me, I felt extremely grateful that the bicycle path is coming into its own,” she said.

Working with others in the community, the county is developing portions of a proposed 16-mile bicycle and pedestrian pathway from Nawiliwili Harbor to Anahola. A two-mile coastal section has already been built at Lydgate Park, and other phases are being developed.

Yukimura has suggested that this bicycle path and others that could be built in the future could encourage people to use bicycles to get around the island, reducing a reliance on vehicles.

Taylor also supported the idea of encouraging people to use non-polluting vehicles of the future. “Lets keep our air clean on this island,” she said.

Another supporter of Yukimura’s plan said she would ride her bicycle to work if there were enough safe bicycle pathways built on the island.

Mickens said it was not his intention to “knock you (Yukimura) for having this dream.”

However, he said her plan didn’t seem workable to him, considering the complexity of traffic problems on Kaua’i.

The DOT’s plans for multi-lane roads on Kaumuali’i Highway from Lihu’e to Po’ipu and a permanent bypass road through East Kaua’i seem to be the best workable solution at hand, Mickens said.

Yukimura said the building of more roads on Kaua’i is not the answer, the solutions to island traffic problems are likely to be slow in coming and her plan will promote solutions that will have far-reaching benefits.

Andy Parx said he would support Yukimura’s plan if it meant moving along a workable transportation plan.

“But we need to take a different kind of look,” Parx said. “We need to take care of our bus system first.” He said it is not efficient and getting transfers from one bus line to another is difficult.

Yukimura said people can buy a $15 monthly pass that allows for unlimited travel and that the county is working to improve the system, including providing bus service to the Lihu’e Airport and allowing small luggage on the buses.

Yukimura said that while the bus system is not perfect, it works well from her perspective because of the efforts of Janine Rapozo, county executive on transportation, and her staff.

“I am grateful for Janine Rapozo for keeping the bus system alive,” said Yukimura, who pushed for the development of the bus system following the devastation of Hurricane ‘Iniki in 1992.

In a computerized presentation on her latest plan, Yukimura said implementation of it could lead to these results:

  • Moving people and goods safely and efficiently.
  • Allowing people who don’t have their own vehicles to get around the island. These include people who don’t own cars, those who don’t have enough cars to meet their family’s transportation needs, the elderly and children below driving age.
  • An “environmentally-friendly” system that will not contribute to global warming.
  • Support of the island general plan to preserve the island’s rural character.

Staff writer Lester Chang can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and lchang@pulitzer.net

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