KAPAA — Five years ago, after a series of workshops, the public sought improvements to the Kawaihau, Hauaala and Mailihuna roads intersections.
In late 2020, construction is tentatively slated to begin.
The Complete Streets project, which is 80 percent funded by the Federal Highway Administration with a 20 percent county match, includes a roundabout, sidewalks, flashing beacons, medians and sheltered bus stops.
Three schools, Kapaa Elementary, Kapaa High and Saint Catherine, are located in the area, so there’s a lot of traffic utilizing the roads daily, said Michael Moule, county Department of Public Works chief engineer.
“The primary objective, and I think this is a longstanding concern for people in this area, especially for people with kids and for the schools, is to improve the safety and operations of the five-way intersection, or double intersection as it is now,” Moule said at a public meeting Wednesday attended by about 30 people at Kapaa High School.
He continued: “This project is essentially what came out of those public meetings. Those ideas came primarily from the public on how to improve safe routes to school for this area.”
While most of the work is being done on Kawaihau Road, some will be done on Mailihuna Road. Officials had to scale the project down to the current rendering because of funding constraints, Moule said.
“But there are plans to extend the improvements in the future,” Moule said.
Justine Rapozo, who lives near where the “peanutabout” will be, suggested putting flashing beacons in the roundabout area, “because a lot of kids cross there and it is dangerous.”
Moule explained the reason they decided not to put flashing lights at the roundabout is because drivers can’t physically drive faster than 20 miles per hour through a roundabout. There’s also a median there, he said.
Flashing beacons should be used where they are most important because but they don’t want to lose their value, he said.
“If you tried crossing the street at Wilcox, for example, it’s really easy. Drivers can’t go fast, they’re readily stopped,” he said.
But Rapozo disagreed.
“I’ve seen people go through all the different roundabouts there at Wilcox School and people don’t necessarily yield, or stop to oncoming traffic, and I’ve seen people just go in front of everybody,” she said.
Tom Bumgardner said he was concerned about drainage issues with the new road and water reaching the houses if the roads aren’t crowned.
“When you make the road like that, you crown it like you do, you can crown it high, low, whatever, then you put a sidewalk there without a curb, the water’s going to go off that faster because it’s paved better,” he said. “It’s just like putting a funnel to make it go into those houses on the right side of the road.”
The houses from Nounou Road to Triangle Park are going to get flooded because of the road, Bumgardner said.
“There’s no way around it. So if you make that without a curb, you’re not going to direct any of the water away from those homes. It’s not that much more money to put a curb on a sidewalk,” he said.
As it stands, the proposal is to allow water to flow where it flows today, Moule said.
“The challenge that you have if you put a curb in, now you carry the water all the way down the road somewhere and you concentrate it and there’s no place to dump the water,” he said.
Moule said they’ve struggled with this issue because there’s no drainage in this area because there’s no place to put the water.
Gabriela Taylor suggested a bike lane so keiki can ride bikes to school, especially since neighborhood kids already use a worn path on the side of Kawaihau Road.
It doesn’t make any sense to have vehicles drop kids off at school when they live just up the road, she said.
“The largest housing tracks in Kauai is off Kawaihau Road, (and) these kids are being driven to school,” Taylor said. “I would think that you would want to, in conjunction with this, make a bike lane so kids can ride their bikes to school. It’s dangerous now for them to do that.”
Moule said the county recognizes the need for better paths all the way up Kawaihau Road, but they couldn’t get funding to improve paths with this project.
“I will say we do have a project funded several years later to do Kawaihau Road mauka, and it would do just that,” he said.
Bethany Freudenthal, crime, courts and county reporter, can be reached at 652-7891 or firstname.lastname@example.org.