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Survey: extend Pouli Rd.

Editor’s note: This is the first of two stories about a survey and studies regarding traffic fixes in the Wailua and Kapa’a areas.

As a first but significant step toward helping to ease long-term traffic congestion on Kuhio Highway through Kapa’a and Waipouli, government leaders should acquire land and extend Pouli Road to the Kapa’a bypass road, say Kaua’i residents in a survey and a consultant working for two developers of projects in Waipouli.

Doing so will enable residents to get to shopping opportunities in Waipouli without having to drive on crowded Kuhio Highway to get to them, the parties say.

Most respondents in a survey done by the Kapaa Business Association emphasized those points.

At the same time, Wailua-Kapa’a Traffic Coalition members stressed in a traffic study the extension of Pouli is one of their top priorities for mitigating daily traffic jams in East Kaua’i, the result of rampant growth in the region and throughout Kaua’i.

Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste helped pull together the coalition, which comprises developers, residents and government officials from East Kaua’i.

The group was assembled to find solutions to long-standing traffic problems in East Kaua’i.

Whether the extension of Pouli Road occurs is up in the air, but the united stand by KBA and coalition members indicates residents, business people and developers want government to begin implementing short-term and long-term solutions before traffic in East Kaua’i becomes worse.

More and more residents are coming out to ask county officials not to consider permit requests —from developers with lands zoned for resort and large residential projects until the developers have put up enough funds to help solve traffic, water and wastewater impacts generated by their projects, if approved.

Related to two large projects in East Kaua’i, Coconut Plantation Holdings, which is proposing a 12-acre project, and the Coconut Beach Development, which is proposing to build out a 20-acre project, on either side of the Courtyard by Marriott Kauai at Waipouli Beach, say they want to address traffic issues along the Waipouli and Kapa’a corridors.

The two companies funded the traffic study done for the coalition at a cost of $250,000, and are willing to donate another $12.4 million to address infrastructure concerns for parts of East Kaua’i.

Of that, around $5 million is specifically for roadway improvements aimed at reducing congestion.

The study, which was done by Kimley-Horn and Associates, a Las Vegas-based consultant, outlined the top long-term and short-term solutions.

Coalition members identified these top five priorities, ranked in order:

  • Improvements on Kuhio Highway at Kawaihau Road and at Haua’ala Road, including closing off the latter road at Kuhio Highway and connecting it to the northern end of the extended Kapa’a bypass road, which could accommodate two-way, south-bound and northbound traffic during morning and evening commute hours. Currently, the state Department of Transportation and Kaua’i County are proposing only southbound traffic on the extended section of the temporary Kapa’a Bypass Road.

Plans also include putting signal lights at the intersection of Kawaihau Road, Kuhio Highway and the northern entrance of the extended bypass road. The consultant described the improvements in this case as being part of short-term solutions;

  • Having four lanes on Kuhio Highway between the existing Kapa’a bypass near the southern entrance to the Coconut Market-place and the Waika’ea Canal bridge;
  • Extending Pouli Road to the Kapa’a bypass road and to allow access to Kaua’i Village shopping center and the Waipouli Town Center from behind the stores, or from Pouli Road (Pouli Road is a short street that runs between the Waipouli Town Center and Two Wheels, L&L Drive-Inn and Wahoo’s Seafood Grill & Bar. It now dead-ends just mauka of Waipouli Town Center);
  • Placing bollards to eliminate left turns onto Kuhio Highway at Papaloa Road near the Shell gas station in Wailua;
  • Closing the east leg of Kukui Street at Kuhio Highway in Kapa’a, by First Hawaiian Bank, creating a T-intersection.

Related to the traffic study, the consultant pointed to short-term solutions that could be considered, including:

  • Putting signal lights on Aleka Loop at Kuhio Highway at the main entrance to the Coconut Marketplace. As part of this improvement, the southern end of the Kapa’a bypass road could be relocated northward to align with the intersection;
  • Installing overhead signal lights on Kuhio Highway south of a signalized intersection to the Kaua’i Village shopping center, and other improvements.

The consultant also recommended “short-term, operational” improvements that could be implemented by state and county leaders without consideration to other short-term or long-term solutions:

  • The state Department of Transportation should consider evaluating the effectiveness of the timing of electronic signals to avoid traffic tie-ups at the intersection of Kapule Highway and Kuhio Highway in Hanama’ulu;
  • State Department of Transportation and Kaua’i County officials should periodically review signal operations under peak traffic conditions as a way to pinpoint “inefficiencies” in the signal-timing plans;
  • Related to the contra-flow system that is in place on Kuhio Highway from Waipouli to the intersection of Kuhio and Kapule highways, DOT officials should monitor traffic volumes on Kuhio Highway near the bridge over the Wailua River, and adjust the contraflow hours to match the change from heavy southbound traffic flow to heavy northbound traffic flow.

This change should be implemented before the widening of the single-lane, former cane-haul bridge over the river to two lanes.

The consultant also recommended some long-term solutions, including constructing a permanent bypass road, widening Kuhio Highway, and improving the existing Kapa’a bypass road.

The recommendations are merely that, and it will be up to government leaders, businesses and residents to decide which will work, the consultants indicated.

What will work now is for government officials to acquire land for the extension of Pouli Road and to build it out, and that is what a majority of those who participated in its survey want, KBA leaders said in a news release.

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