Transportation resolution gains momentum

LIHUE — As transportation frustrations across Kauai continue to rise regarding traffic congestion and deteriorating road conditions, a growing number of state and local officials are addressing the local concerns.

A Kauai lawmaker and representatives from the Hawaii Department of Transportation recently responded to a critically worded resolution unanimously passed earlier this month by the Kauai Council. The resolution urges state officials to do more about transportation problems facing Kauai.

In an email Monday, Shelly Kunishinge with the Department of Transportation said it will continue to work with the Kauai Council to address concerns, but emphasized a blanket solution continues to be illusive until funding mechanisms are identified.

Last year, the DOT outlined five priority transportation projects on Kauai that could be accomplished in the next five years for about $60 million.

Looking at the bigger picture, the financial fix would amount to hundreds of millions of dollars over the next several years. Prioritizing the most pressing needs and addressing funding options and time frames remain a priority. In the short term, other options are being considered.

“The legislature is currently seeking a $0.03 increase in the fuel tax, $0.01 per pound increase in vehicle weight tax and $31.50 annual increase in vehicle registration fees to fund improvements,” according to the email from DOT. “Without these increases, capacity projects such as the Kuhio Highway widening and the right-turn lane extension at Kuamoo Road may be deferred.”

Rep. Derek Kawakami, D-Kapaa, said he continues to work closely with the DOT. The representative has outlined five priorities of his own:

w Adding a northbound lane to the temporary Kapaa Bypass Road.

w Adding a southbound lane to Kuhio Highway between the Kapaa Bypass Road and Kuamoo Road.

w Extending the right-turn lane from Kuamoo.

w Traffic signal optimization.

w Adding a southbound lane to Kuhio Highway between Kuamoo and Kapule Highway.

But Kawakami said it will take more than new infrastructure.

“We cannot just build more roads and add more lanes,” Kawakami said. “We will have to find ways through mixed-use community developments to negate the need to drive into Lihue.”

Kawakami said he will continue to work with lawmakers and transportation on viable solutions and was pleased by the interest it has generated at the state level.

Kauai Councilman Gary Hooser, who introduced the toughly worded transportation resolution, said state officials for too long have ignored transportation needs on Kauai and even accused officials of shirking their responsibilities.

“I’m certainly encouraged,” said Hooser of the state interest in the resolution. “This is not a new issue and certainly not an issue that is going away. I continue to hear from citizens who want something done… and that remains a priority to me.”

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