Officials eye traffic solutions

LIHUE — Council Chair Mel Rapozo told state transportation officials Wednesday a decision has to be made about the Hanalei Bridge, because it’s inadequate to meet rising traffic demands on the North Shore.

“I understand the community doesn’t want to get rid of that bridge, but if we have to evacuate people for tsunami, or for any kind of natural disaster, wouldn’t you agree it doesn’t matter?” he said.

Rapozo said he’s not proposing to getting rid of the bridge, but suggested the state look at the public safety issue versus convenience, which means they need to consider putting in an additional lane.

Department of Transportation District Engineer Larry Dill agreed. He said there is a possibility of constructing a second bridge across the Hanalei River, parallel to the existing one.

“You saw what happened when we had a little landslide and saw the disruption and the backlog,” Rapozo said. “Our roads up there are inadequate. You can’t put a price tag on that.”

Heavy rains caused two landslides in the same location on Friday morning, blocking Kuhio Highway between Wainiha and Lumahai with several tons of dirt, boulders and debris. The highway fully reopened in both lanes Sunday afternoon.

Talk about the Hanalei Bridge was part of a state presentation during a council committee meeting at the Historic County Building.

The DOT is focusing on projects that address safety and system preservation first, Dill said.

“That’s our priority these days,” he said. “Trying to take care of the system we have out there as well as addressing any safety issues.”

Projects outlined in the Federal-Aid Highways 2035 Transportation Plan, published in 2014, include constructing the Kapaa relief route between Kapule Highway and Kapaa Stream, with the estimated price tag of $600 million; improving airport access from Ahukini Road to Kuhio Highway, to Kapule Highway, which would include realignment and illumination, along with two additional travel lanes with sidewalks and bike lanes or a bicycle path, at about $41 million; and the addition of two travel lanes on Kuhio Highway from Kapule Highway to Mailihuna Road, costing about $128 million.

There isn’t a firm timeline for those projects, as they are dependent on funding and priorities of other state highway needs.

Rep. Dee Morikawa said she has been in conversation with Dill about traffic problems in Kalaheo. Some of the problems, she said, involve crosswalks near the schools and the market that are not lighted.

The discussion was placed on the agenda by Council Vice Chair Ross Kagawa. He said councilmembers often hear concerns about traffic on Kauai.

  1. larry March 1, 2018 5:27 am Reply

    here is another idea…..never allow the coco palms to be rebuilt…..traffic in that cooridor will be unthinkable once construction starts

  2. steven baptiste March 1, 2018 6:44 am Reply

    Thank you Mel Rapozo for your insight and desire to help the north shore community. I live on the north shore and the current situation with the traffic coming out of hanalei is horrible. Traffic is backed up almost everyday between 1 pm and 6 pm and it backs up somedays all the way to the post office. Last week when the river was rising there were hundreds of cars trying to get out of hanalei and there was landslide on the hill going up to Princeville. Traffic was backed up for hours and people were in there cars in the corridor leaving out of hanalei. If the river had continued to rise to the point people would be stuck in the flood on that road it would have been a catastrophe. Imagine a tidal wave? Now this is not even tourist season which is around the corner when hanalei is really busy with visitors and locals in hanalei for the next 6 to 7 months coming up. Imagine whats coming…
    There are two solutions to the situation on traffic leaving hanalei and flooding. Now I love hanalei my family is from the north shore. My grandparents and great grandparents were born in homes up Wainiha valley my great uncle Henry Gomes was a harbor master in hanalei, a politician and tour operator owner conducting tours in the hanalei river and down the Napali coast. So I love the old bridge in hanalei its nostalgic, but kauai has changed and people are going to come to see beautiful Hanalei and move here and visitors are going to go to hanalei no matter what. So we need a new bridge with two lanes for safety.
    Leave the old bridge there and build a two lane bridge next to it. I have seen places in the mainland that have old bridges right next to new ones and it looks great. You now have a safe efficient way to get people out and in hanalei with out the traffic congestion. Second solution to the flooding so that the bridge does not close anymore is the river mouth must be dredged two to three times a year so that the water can flow out freely. They used to dredge it before. I have documents signed by past mayors paying companies to open the river so it would not flood. Right now its only 2 feet deep for over 100 yards at the area were the river mouth meets the sea. If it was 6 to 8 feet deep the water would flow out and the road to hanalei would always be passable.
    No more warnings or locals and children and visitors stuck in hanalei town sometimes having to sleep in there cars or at friends homes, no businesses shut down. There is not one location in in the state of Hawaii were this is continued to allow to happen. All the other rivers on kauai are dredged or opened anytime there is heavy rain or flood warnings all these areas, Wailua, Kealia, Waimea are opened by the county always.
    I ask this, why not Hanalei? Why are a few people allowed to complain on how it will ruin hanalei and its uniqueness.
    Seriously ?
    Look at hanalei now. It will never be what it was get over it and make it a safer place for everyone. Is the county waiting for a real disaster to happen and do people actually have to lose there lives before action is taken? Im like a lot of Kauai residents who were born and raised here I love the old Kauai I grew up with. But times have changed and it will never be like the 60,s 70,s and 80,s. Kauai has grown and there is no way to stop people from coming here to live or visit. I suggest any one who has a better plan or solution to please give your input to the county as I have seen in this last year the amount of times the bridge has closed and the traffic problems are getting worse with the way the weather patterns have been changing I only see it getting worse. A plan of action, not words needs to be taken.
    mahalo nui
    Steven Baptiste

  3. Steve Martin March 1, 2018 8:08 am Reply

    Every year should be an election year… This is the first time I have heard a council member bring up the safety issues of our roads and making it a point to get in touch with officials wanting them to address the problem right now. Are you kidding me Mel Rapozo. It’s to late you should have thought about this many years ago not when it’s time for elections around the corner. You and the others wouldn’t make a pimple on a good managements okole! The only rush now is to find a way to get professionals in those seats.

  4. Steve Martin March 1, 2018 8:19 am Reply

    And the best comment of the day…. Ross Kagawa says the council members often hear concerns about the traffic on Kauai. And as we have seen over the years it goes in one ear and right out the other. If I was you guys I’d shut my mouth, you forgot it’s an election year!

  5. LikeGetVotes March 1, 2018 8:37 am Reply

    All these clowns like do is get votes. They not going do nothing because they don’t know how. Ask them their background and edumacation. Like Get Votes is all this is.

  6. truthbeknown March 1, 2018 2:34 pm Reply

    Stephen Baptiste, would you possibly consider running for city council? Your two suggestions are the obvious answers to the Hanalei flooding problem. Adding at least another one lane bridge and dredging the low areas are straight forward solutions. Thanks for your intelligent suggestions!

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