PUHI — Brigitte D’Annibale has lived in Puhi for the past 15 years and said she has seen the heavily-traveled thoroughfare in front of her home, Puhi Road, gradually fall apart.
“It’s a big issue,” said D’Annibale, who pointed out that the road accommodates heavy residential and commercial traffic on a regular basis.
County Engineering Chief Michael Moule said he and his family also live in Puhi and have experienced many of the road’s setbacks firsthand.
“We see broken up pavement and patches all up and down Puhi Road, which is why it is in desperate need of full reconstruction,” Moule explained.
But relief, he said, may be in sight soon.
About two dozen people attended a public meeting on Wednesday at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School, where Moule and other county officials outlined plans to dig up and completely repave a 0.4-mile stretch of Puhi Road between Kaumualii Highway and Kaneka Street.
“I know, for all of us, it is long overdue, however, I just want you to know that we’re committed to following through with this,” Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. told the crowd.
But what separates this particular road from other county repaving projects, Moule explained, is the amount of damage that it has sustained.
“It’s not just a matter of repaving,” he said. “The road is, to a strict point, largely because of the truck traffic that goes back and forth between the Puhi Industrial Park, in a state where we have to reconstruct it from underneath and not just pave it over the top.”
To ensure that the roadway will last for at least 30 years and accommodate residential and commercial traffic through the area, Moule said county officials are planning to use concrete, rather than asphalt, to resurface the roadway.
“It supports trucks a lot better and lasts a lot longer,” Moule said. “With this kind of project, we’re looking at decades before we’re going to have to rebuild or resurface the road again because concrete lasts so much longer than asphalt.”
Apart from the two 11-feet wide travel lanes that would carry residential and commercial traffic on Puhi Road, current county plans also call for the creation of a five-feet wide sidewalk, six-feet wide planter strip, seven-feet wide parallel parking area and six-feet wide bike lane on the Lihue side of the road.
The opposite side of the road would accommodate a five-feet wide bike lane and eight-feet wide shoulder.
Drainage swales, along with Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant curb extensions and sidewalks, would also be installed at the intersections of Kaneka Street and Leleiona Street.
Construction on the project is tentatively scheduled to begin in June or July 2015 and end by the summer of 2016.
About 80 percent of the $3.5 million project, including design, permitting and construction, will be funded by the Federal Highway Administration. The remaining 20 percent of the costs, Moule said, would be funded by the County of Kauai.
Federal funding, he added, is only available at this time for the stretch of Puhi Road from Kaumualii Highway to Kaneka Street. The remaining stretch of Puhi Road is slated to receive federal funding in 2017, but county officials may move forward with those plans early, if they can obtain additional funding.
But not everybody agreed with some of the plans.
Puhi resident Michael Buenconsejo questioned whether plans for the road could sustain possible long-term growth opportunities for the Lihue area.
“I appreciate the fact that we’re going to do something about this road, but when you look at the long-term plans that we have for Lihue, which may include housing between the Menehune Fish Pond and Puhi Road area back there, we may end up with more residential traffic maybe 10 to 20 years down the road,” Buenconsejo told county officials.
Puhi resident Edwin Hernandez said county officials should lower speed limits and install speed humps on Puhi Road to discourage drivers from speeding through the residential area.
“With the heavy load of trucks and they stay speeding, there’s no way they are going to be able to stop in time if we’re coming out of our driveways — you’re asking for one accident right there,” Hernandez said. “You’re asking for one lawsuit, if you guys don’t bring down the speed limit.”
Installing speed bumps, however, is not allowed on thru streets because it would hinder emergency response vehicles from traveling through the area, Moule said.
Puhi residents Susan Fukumoto and Carol Simon said they would like to see county officials complete the disjointed sidewalk area on the Lihue side of Puhi Road so that children living in the Villas at Puali subdivision can safely walk to school.
Fukumoto, who has lived in Puhi for about 26 years, said that children sometimes cross Puhi Road to avoid unmaintained, grassy areas on the Lihue side of the street, walk along the commercial side of the road, and then cross the street a second time to reach existing sidewalks.
“If you could extend the sidewalk further and scrape together enough money to do it, that would really be a benefit to the community,” Fukumoto said.