Support grows for Lihue revitalization

LIHUE — Elliot Yamamoto of Lihue said it’s nice to see an expansive Lihue plan that aims to improve traffic, pedestrian mobility, parking and adds bike lanes.

“There’s a real sensibility of how the whole of Rice Street will work together a little bit better,” said Yamamoto who lives by Rice Street and whose family owns Po’s Kitchen.

Yamamoto was one of 20 people who attended an open house on the Lihue Town Core Revitalization Project at Ha Coffee on Thursday.

Yamamoto liked the idea of having a dedicated turn lane on Rice Street.

“I would hope that the driving public would be able to get with the program and understand how it will work,” he said. “I don’t know where else has these kind of left-hand, right-turn lanes. Places on the Mainland — I used to live in Los Angeles — they work pretty well in certain areas.”

The Lihue projects are funded by a TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) Grant. The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded Kauai County $13 million last year to include pedestrian and bike lanes, sidewalks and various other improvements to the Lihue area.

Bill Powell, Rice Shopping Center leasing agent, said he agrees with the current plan and is hopeful it will keep speeding down on Rice Street.

“When you put a right and left turn lane in the middle, now you’re down to one lane on either side. It will work because you want people going 10-15 mph,” he said. “You don’t want them going 35 mph.”

Adam Orens of Kapaa uses the Rice Street area at least 15 times a week.

“I think it has advantages,” Orens said. “It looks like it’s going to alleviate issues going from a three-, four-lane highway because in some places you have the center lane with two on the right then you have traffic comes up and cause a big snarl.”

One thing Orens is glad isn’t on the plans are roundabouts.

Yamamoto said he’s concerned about bike lane merges.

“At first glance, I’m a little worried where the bike lane merges and ends up occupying the same space as the automotive traffic,” he said. “If there’s lower speeds and if the driving public is educated, (I think it will work).”

In addition to improvements on Rice Street and Eiwa Street, transit services for the Lihue Civic Center will be expanded.

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