Systems preservation and safety are the priorities for the 2019-22 Hawaii Department of Transportation’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, but the public has a chance to weigh in before it’s finalized.
The list was developed before the April flood destroyed roads, made bridges unsafe, and deposited debris throughout state transportation systems on the North Shore.
That’s according to Larry Dill, district engineer for the Hawaii Department of Transportation, who is presenting a list of projects for a first round of the state’s public meetings on the topic.
“These public meetings are part of the process for evaluating the list,” Dill said. “We’re here to gather input to help develop the financially constrained program.”
He said now is the time for the people of Kauai to make their needs known.
Dill presented a list of 18 Kauai projects to a group of about 20 people at the first public hearing May 10 in Lihue. This week, he’s on Hawaii Island presenting the same list of projects.
“Public input is important,” he said. “It can influence what is in the program.”
The STIP “wish list” for Kauai’s 2019-22 projects starts with a $67.2 million bridge and pavement improvement program. Also included is a project to improve guardrails on state highways, with a price tag of $3.3 million of six years.
The list puts the $5.4 million Kapule Highway/Rice Street/Waapa Road improvements and Nawailiwili Bridge replacement project in FY 2020, the Lydgate Park to Kapaa Bike/Pedestrian Path, phases C and D in 2019, and traffic signal optimization and intersection improvements on Kuhio Highway in 2020.
After two rounds of public workshops, the list will be submitted in September with anticipated approval in October.
Usually Hawaii gets about $180 million in STIP funding, and that federal money is allocated based on vehicle miles traveled.
“That means Kauai generally gets the lowest amount of money,” Dill said. “That target is about $13 million.”
However, transportation officials said the state also wants to distribute funds according to need.
“Likely, Kauai will receive more than its fair share this time around,” Dill said. “Kauai has a lot of needs, likely we’ll get more money.”
That money is earmarked for systems preservation and safety improvement projects — not capacity building or congestion relief.
Fixing the roads and bridges on the North Shore were of top concern for the residents attending the Kauai meeting.
“How can we move the Hanalei Bridge up the list?” asked Maka‘ala Kaaumoana, executive director of the Hanalei Watershed Hui. “How do we add it as a higher priority for the STIP?”
She pointed out the current list putting $6 million in improvements to the Hanalei Bridge’s deteriorated steel and paint, but not until 2024. “It’s not going to last that long,” she said.
Dill acknowledged there are needs that have been moved to the top of the list since the flood, and said projects like the Hanalei Bridge and the Wailua bridges could get moved up the list. The project to replace the three Wainiha bridges is getting moved up, too, he said.
While a computerized management system narrows down the list, Dill said public opinion sways the decision-making process.
“We want you to go through and rate all of these projects for us according to importance,” he said.
The public can weigh in by taking a survey or downloading and printing a paper version of the Kauai STIP financially unconstrained list at: bit.ly/2IUcS9n. HDOT will accept completed surveys and comments until June 18.