KAPAA — Those who live and work in Kapaa say the traffic on the eastside has gotten out of hand.
“Any little thing on the road — an out light, a cop giving a ticket or an accident — will make traffic stop,” said Anni Caporuscio.
Caporuscio, owner of Small Town Coffee and Kapaa resident, said there’s no rhyme or reason to when traffic gets backed up in Kapaa.
“I work in the morning, and run errands in the afternoon. My errands can take me an hour — or three hours, depending on what the traffic is doing,” she said.
Lisa Bancone lives in Wailua, but works at Island Hemp and Cotton, and also Hula Girl in Kapaa. She said traffic on Kuhio Highway determines if she goes to Safeway after work to pick up dinner.
“If it’s too busy, I just take Olohena Road to get home, and eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” she said.
Traffic in Kapaa has gotten worse in the 30 years she’s lived here, Bancone said.
“It’s overwhelming and distracting. It overwhelms your senses,” she said. “Life here hasn’t always been like this.”
Kapaa should be alluring, but the constant traffic flow ruins the appeal, and dirt from the road often makes its way into the store, dirtying up merchandise, Bancone added.
It’s time for the government to take action to solve traffic problems, she said.
“I’m disappointed it’s taken this long for the county and state to address these issues,” she said. “The county talks about it, but what are some solutions? Give us some potatoes to go with the meat.”
Kauai County Councilmember Gary Hooser requested that Lyle Tabata, acting county engineer, be present at today’s Public Works and Parks and Recreation Committee meeting to share the administration’s plans to address the problem.
He is looking specifically at the area between Kawaihau Road through the Wailua Bridge.
“There are many smaller connector roads that run parallel to Kuhio Highway that could be improved and expanded which would alleviate some of the extreme congestion on the highway,” he said.
Extending Kapaa Bypass Road so that it connects to Wailua Houselots and Kawaihau Road are possible projects that could mitigate congestion on Kuhio Highway, Hooser said.
Today, the committee is expected to hear a presentation by Tabata about strategies to address congestion, what governing entity is responsible for the project, any immediate plans and a projected timeline.
“The state and county both need to consider reducing traffic along Kuhio Highway, a top priority and collaborate together to accelerate the much needed and long-overdue improvements,” Hooser said.
Xochitl Garcia, owner of Shipwrecked Kauai, said traffic tends to get heavy when the Hanalei Bridge closes.
“When Hanalei shuts down, it gets crazy here because no one can go north, so they turn around and come back,” the Kapaa resident said.
Traffic on Kuhio Highway gets worse in the morning, when kids are going to school, and in the afternoon, when school gets out, added Kate Bausher, an employee at Shipwrecked Kauai.
But bypasses may not be the answer, Garcia said.
“Everyone wants to keep Kauai small, and bypasses don’t always benefit the community because people bypass businesses,” she said.
There needs to be a compromise between fixing traffic congestion and supporting small business, she added.
“It needs to be fixed so people can still go to town,” she said.
Traffic in Kapaa is better than it was 15 years ago, Caporuscio said.
“When they widened the bridge, they kept doing beautification projects on it,” she said. “They should’ve just let it be.”
One solution to today’s traffic congestion is carpooling, she said. Another is encouraging people to take the bus, said Carly Boardman, employee at Island Hemp and Cotton.
“I don’t know how the county can widen roads on Kuhio Highway without altering the historic structure,” she said.
Another concern Boardman has with traffic on Kuhio Highway is that the stoplight and the pedestrian light aren’t in sync.
“Pedestrians have to wait six minutes to cross the street, but only get 10 seconds to cross it,” she said. “The light turns green for people turning left onto Kuhio from Huluili Street, and people have to dodge cars.”
But, at the end of the day, traffic isn’t as bad on Kauai as it is in the Mainland, Boardman said.
“It’s one thing to get stuck in eight lanes of traffic with nothing to look at but the car in front of you,” she said. “At least here, it’s one lane, and you get to look at the ocean. When I get mad about being stuck in traffic, I try to remember that.”