Sunday, Aug. 14, 2022 |
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It’s one of the most frustrating parts of living in Hawai‘i — you are finally pau hana and you’re on your way home, or to the market, and you are ready to enjoy life with family or friends, and then it hits you — gridlock.
We face it across the state, but Kaua‘i residents get it especially bad to and from Lihu‘e and Kapa‘a. It wastes money, energy and time, keeps us away from our family and work, and decreases the quality of the tourism experience.
So what can be done about this critical issue?
First, better planning: In an island state, it’s critical that infrastructure accompany any developments as part of the planning process. It’s not wise for projects to be approved without appropriate traffic mitigation plans and funds for better, wider and more roads.
Second, we need funding. And in a state that seems to focus its infrastructure investments on O‘ahu, we need to make sure that Kaua‘i gets its fair share for roads, harbors and airport improvements.
Third, we need to build communities in ways that encourage people to get out of their cars. Now, not everyone is going to be able to pull that off — if you live in Anahola and work in Po‘ipu, then you are going to have to be in your car. But having more human-scale and community-based recreational opportunities, such as the recently built coastal pathway, is a solid beginning.
Finally, we need to approach transportation planning from a comprehensive standpoint and integrate the functions of the county and state planning departments with the natural resources and transportation functions. In other words, the problem cannot be solved simply by having more roads or more money spent, or by increasing walkways and bikeways. What we need is a government that sets as its goal achieving a high degree of quality of life for all of its citizens, and recognizes that nothing decreases quality of life faster than being stuck on the road.
The federal stimulus funds that are coming to Hawai‘i are a great start. The money for transportation infrastructure are coming at a critical time because unemployment continues to rise and we need the cash injected into our economy.
At the same time, these projects serve our long-term needs. Millions of dollars will be spent on road resurfacing on Kuhio Highway, and more than $4 million will be spent building a bikeway for Lydgate Park. This is the kind of economic stimulus that is a short-term boost for our economy and also provides the kind of transportation infrastructure that Kaua‘i residents deserve.
Kaua‘i has great challenges from a transportation perspective — many towns with only one way in and one way out and our tough economic situation makes money hard to come by. But by working in coordination with all levels of government, and especially through maximizing federal investment, we hope to cut commute times and increase the amount of time we can all spend with friends and family.
•Brian Schatz is the chair of the Hawai‘i Democratic Party. His regular column, written exclusively for The Garden Island, tackles the critical issues facing the state.
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