Waikomo Road improvement project deferred

LIHUE — A $70,000 project aimed at improving pedestrian safety on Waikomo Road was deferred in committee by the Kauai Council Wednesday.

The project, called the Safe Routes to School project, has been in the works for six years, said Lyle Tabata, acting county engineer for Kauai.

As part of the project, the county has been working with Koloa Elementary School, which promotes walking as an alternate mode of transportation through the Walk to School program.

“It promotes healthy living and a healthier environment,” Tabata said. “It’s been proven that if children have activity before school, they are more attentive during school.”

The project comes in three phases:

w From Koloa to Weliweli roads, which will have 8-foot wide, two-way traffic lanes with a 6-foot shoulder.

w From Weliweli to Kapau roads, which will have 12-foot wide travel way with a 6-foot shoulder.

w From Kapau to Poipu roads, which will be converted to a one-way road and have a 8-foot stripe shoulder.

At the intersection of Waikomo and Poipu roads, the department is proposing a roundabout with an island for pedestrians. The roundabout with a one-way entrance from Mauka Road, Tabata said.

Funding for the project can come from either the fiscal year 2016 budget for the Roads Division or the Safe Route to School Fund, a Hawaii State Department of Transportation program that receives money through traffic citations.

As part of their research for the project, officials conducted counts to see how many cars were on the surrounding roads, Tabata said.

There were 1,700 cars between Weliweli and Puni roads in 2014. According to their research, 19 cars per hour need to be diverted in order to make it safer for pedestrians, he said.

On Tuesday, there were 25 people walking or biking on the surrounding road, Tabata added.

During public comment, Koloa and Poipu residents said the improvements were unnecessary.

“This road has been a vital artery for traffic flow. Leave it the way it is,” said Tessie Kinnaman. “I know Waikomo Road well, and there’s nothing dangerous about it.”

She suggested the county consider installing speed tables or speed bumps on both ends of Waikomo Road to mitigate traffic speed.

Norma Doctor Sparks said she opposes the project because of potential hazards it could create.

“I’m concerned about emergencies, and I asked Kauai Police Department how they would handle emergencies, if, in fact, Waikomo Road is one-way,” she said.

Residents also said they were unaware of the project, causing council members to question what kind of public outreach the Public Works Department did.

Lee Steinmetz, transportation planner, said meetings were held at community associations as well at the school.

But, to give the department more time to better educate Poipu and Koloa residents, council members deferred the resolution until June.

“Changing something that has been around for 60, 70 and 80 years is substantial,” said Councilman Ross Kagawa. “So we need to take time to take that extra step.”

Councilman KipuKai Kuali’i agreed.

“Change is hard. That’s why we must take it incrementally.”

The resolution will be discussed again on June 27.

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