Puhi Road upgrades ahead

PUHI — For almost as long as he has owned his business in the Puhi Industrial Park, Jack LoCicero said Puhi Road and the maintenance of it has been a longstanding problem.  

“It has just gotten worse and worse, and unfortunately, when we get a lot of rain, it decays even more and more, and the patching is not that great,” said LoCicero, who has owned and operated Paradise Millworks and Hardware, Inc. out of Puhi for the past 13 years. “I wish they would just do a better patch job.” 

County of Kauai officials say some relief may be in sight as they move forward with a $3.5 million project to dig up and repave a 0.4-mile stretch of Puhi Road between Kaumualii Highway and Kaneka Street. 

“I like it and I have been waiting for it for a long time,” LoCicero said after reviewing the county’s plan for the road at a Tuesday meeting at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School. 

About 80 percent of the project costs, including those for road design, permitting and construction, will be funded by the Federal Highway Administration, County Engineering Chief Michael Moule said. The remaining 20 percent of the costs would be funded by the County of Kauai.

Construction on the project is tentatively scheduled to begin some time between July or August and conclude by the summer of 2016.

County officials are also planning to use concrete, instead of asphalt, to resurface the roadway so it will last for at least another 30 years and accommodate residential and commercial traffic through the area. 

“As all of you know very well, Puhi Road is in need of work,” Moule said. “It’s in desperate need of not just resurfacing but rehabilitation.”

Apart from the two 11-feet wide travel lanes that would carry residential and commercial traffic on Puhi Road, future roadway plans include 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, meanwhile, would include a five-feet wide bike lane and a eight-feet wide grassy shoulder.

Drainage improvements, along with Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant curb extensions and sidewalks would also be installed at the intersections of Kaneka Street and Leleiona Street. Flashing pedestrian beacons would also be installed at Leleiona Street. 

Kauai Path, Inc. President Randy Blake said he supports the new plans for the roadway and believes it will make it safer for young or inexperienced bicyclists to travel along Puhi Road.

“I’d definitely like to see the implementation of Complete Streets so we are accommodating pedestrians and bicyclists — it wasn’t just more traffic lanes, so we do have sidewalks and bike lanes,” he said.

Those who live and work farther down Puhi Road, however, may have to wait a little longer before any major work is done. 

Plans to design the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Puhi Road from Kaneka Street to Haleukana Street are scheduled to begin this year, Moule said. Construction on the project, however, may not take place till at least 2017, if not later. 

In the meantime, Moule said Department of Public Works officials will resurface parts of Puhi Road between Kaneka Street and Hanalima Street beginning in July or August. The worst areas, he added, will likely be repaired next month or in March.

Susan Irie, who owns Kilohana Lighting, Inc. in the Puhi Industrial Park, said she is thankful that some progress is being made.

“In reality, they’re moving us forward as fast as they can,” Irie said. “They also made promises that the road was going to be taken care of earlier, and it’s not.”

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