Marathons, bike paths and more

This article will offer my observations on three topics.

First, the rains we had in March caused serious damage to our streets and roads in many places. One of those is at mile 22.5 of Kuhio Highway, where a bridge subsided, necessitating  a detour onto a local street for several weeks. Per state law, signage must be placed by contractors identifying the construction area and setting forth reduced speed limits to be observed. This is done to protect both the workers and their equipment and the traffic during the construction period. However, the work has been completed now for about a month, but the signs remain. This is irresponsible. Both the contractor and county officials have been remiss in allowing the signs to remain, affecting  traffic flow long after the need for them has ended. Why can’t our Public Works department find a way to restore prior speed limits promptly after repairs are complete?

Recently, two unrelated proposals came to public attention. One was the proposed Kaua‘i marathon and its request for public sponsorship and the other was a proposal for a North Shore bike path to be built largely at public expense.

No elected politician likes to say no to a request for his support for a project desired by community activists. The politician’s assistance in such cases is likely to gain future votes for his re-election and campaign contributions from grateful advocates. The true merits of the project and its impact on taxpayers are apt to become background and never adequately considered. For local politicians, the ability of the project to attract federal or state financial grants is a dream come true as the project’s real costs are disguised, allowing the politician the opportunity to claim an accomplishment vastly more valuable than the the cost his constituents are asked to bear.

The proposal for a North Shore bike path is in its initial stages. Kaua‘i County has retained the planning concern Charlier Associates Inc. to prepare study a project that would link the communities of Kilauea, Princeville and Hanalei with a network of multimodal paths for nonmotorized transportation, which would be a model for “sustainable transit.” Meetings have been held in the North Shore communities and a 45-page report has been written. In concept, the project seems exciting, with walkers and bikers enjoying the scenic vistas the path would traverse. As always, the dampening factor is the cost and the questions of who wil bear the cost. Although the terrain involved is challenging and two significant river crosssings would be needed, the report glosses over this aspect, speaking only in an elliptical way about federal and state money that might be available. It will most likely become an illustration of the typical conflict of a program that benefits a limited segment of the population, with that segment seeking through elected county officials to underwrite an open-ended cost estimate with taxpayer funds .

A more immediate proposal is currently being entertained by our county council involving the Kaua‘i Marathon. This event is now in its fourth year. The original financial sponsor, who at its outset said he would be its benefactor until it would be self-sustaining, has ended his financial support.

 The Kaua‘i and Hawai‘i tourist boards have provided some funding, but are withdrawing their assistance. The financial beneficiaries of the race are clearly the tourism businesses of our island — the hotels, car rentals and restaurants. But the sponsors of the race are turning to the county and its beleaguered taxpayers for the estimated $350,000 in unmet costs for this year’s race.

As always, it will be of interest to observe the rhetoric and action that the council employs in its treatment of these and other similar measures.

• Walter Lewis is a resident of Princeville and pens a biweekly column for The Garden Island.

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