Council urges state action on roads

LIHUE — Frustrated with what they called a lack of support from the state in addressing major transportation problems on Kauai, the county council on Wednesday lashed out at state officials for their “ineffectiveness” in handling crucial local road needs.

“The public should know that the state is not doing its job,” said Councilmember Gary Hooser, who introduced a toughly worded resolution that was sent to Gov. David Ige and the Legislature.

The resolution, supported 7-0 by the council, decries the “urgency and importance” of addressing traffic congestion on the island, specifically within the Kapaa-Wailua corridor.

“Almost the entire stretch of state highway from Kawaihau Road to Maluhia Road is rated the very lowest by state standards,” the resolution says, causing “gridlock and extreme traffic congestion.”

Councilmembers urged the community to unite with local officials and pressure lawmakers “to do the right thing” and act now on Kauai’s serious and even life-threatening road conditions.

“The state is simply not making the most efficient use of its transportation dollars,” Hooser said.

Many members of public also chimed in, some accusing the Hawaii Department of Transportation and lawmakers of disproportionately allocating larger amounts of transportation funding to urban areas while turning their backs on less populated regions like Kauai.

Ultimately, fixing roads on Kauai will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, officials agree. The key is to begin addressing priorities now.

Councilmembers cited a year-old transportation study that has already identified funding for top-priority Kauai projects that could be accomplished in the next five years for about $60 million. These include:

• Widening Kuhio Highway between the temporary Kapaa Bypass Road and Kuamoo Road ($30 million);

• Widening the temporary Kapaa Bypass Road north of Olohena Road ($29.5 million);

• Optimizing traffic signalization on Kuhio Highway at Kukio Street ($301,000);

• And extending the right-turn lane on Kuhio Highway at Kuamoo Road ($63,000).

Also on Wednesday, the council accepted communication submitted by Councilmember JoAnn Yukimura asking it to consider three amendments to the county fuel tax rates as follows:

• Implement a 15-cent per gallon tax increase and 10-cent hike on biodiesel fuel beginning Jan. 1, 2017 (which would sunset in 10 years);

• Imposing a .25 percent increase in the General Excise Tax.

• And implementing a .0138 increase in the state motor vehicle tax.

The council did not act on Yukimura’s proposed amendments.

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