LIHUE — Big changes, Kauai County officials say, are in store for Hardy Street as contractors fine tune the last details needed to kick off a multi-million dollar project aimed at improving connectivity in the area.
And a public meeting Wednesday at Elsie H. Wilcox Elementary School gave residents a chance to review those plans.
The meeting, the last one scheduled before construction tentatively begins in May, was attended by nearly 30 people.
Kaliko Santos, who lives in Hanamaulu but works in Lihue, said she supports the project but is concerned about the traffic that may be generated by the road construction.
“Everybody is going to shift to Rice Street, and Rice Street is kind of busy already … so if they’re anticipating that, then what are they going to do,” Santos said. “As long as they communicate, I’m OK.”
The total cost of the project, including design, permitting and construction, is $7.9 million.
More than $6.3 million, or 80 percent, of all costs for the project is being subsidized by the Federal Highway Administration. The remaining 20 percent, totaling nearly $1.6 million, is being funded by the County of Kauai.
According to proposed Department of Public Works plans, two travel lanes with a landscaped median, turn lanes, bike lanes on both sides of the street, on-street parking, planter strips and continuous sidewalks will run the length of Hardy Street.
Plans also call for installing a installing a single-lane, one-way traffic roundabout at the intersection of Umi and Hardy streets.
While single-occupant vehicle use and carpooling are expected to be the primary options used by residents over the next 20 years, the improvements to Hardy Street will also address expected bumps in other commuting options.
According to the county’s long-range land transportation plan, commuting by walking is projected to increase from 4.5 percent in 2010 to 11.5 percent by 2035.
Bicycle use is also expected to jump from 2 to 7.6 percent during that same time, while mass transit demand is targeted for a slight increase from 0.4 to 3.6 percent.
Missy Kamai, who also lives in Hanamaulu and works in Lihue, agreed that pedestrians need to be accommodated when it comes to the Hardy Street renovation plan.
“We need sidewalks to walk because people are walking on the road, but my concern is what’s going to happen during construction,” said Kamai, who has suggested leaving Rice Street completely open. “My problem is that, in construction zones, people tend to get pissed during traffic times, especially when school gets out. My thing is safety and trying to alleviate peoples’ road rage because it is going to happen no matter what.”
The new plans, however, would also reduced the number of parking areas on Hardy Street from 137 to 97 parking spaces, including reverse-in parking stalls fronting Wilcox Elementary and six reverse-in parking stalls fronting the State Office Building.
The place where this will be more noticeable is in front of the Kauai Community Federal Credit Union building and neighboring businesses along Hardy Street, where 10 on-street parking spaces will be replaced by a bicycle lane.
“The project team checked at different times on a typical weekday and found that less than half of the parking spaces were in use,” SSFM International, Inc. Civil Engineer Keoho Enomoto said.
Flashing beacons, like the one located in front of the Lihue Post Office on Rice Street, are also planned to be installed at two Wilcox Elementary crosswalks between the Lihue Public Library and Kaana Street.
Pedestrian and driveway access, Keoho said, will be maintained throughout the construction process. Access to side streets, apart from a few projects during the first phase of construction, will also be maintained.
“From the time that I got into office in 2008 till now, it’s been six years, and this has been on the table and ongoing,” Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. said at the meeting. “Within this time, we were able to really look at this project, embrace it, and add in things that are really going to incorporate the great, great opportunities that are going to help our keiki, kupuna, families and businesses.”
• Darin Moriki, county government reporter, can be reached at 245-0428 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @darinmoriki.