Lihue ready for revamped look

  • Bethany Freudenthal / The Garden Island

    Pat Griffin

  • Bethany Freudenthal / The Garden Island

    Dr. Tanya Gamby

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Lloyd Yonenaka of CommPac, left, and Michael Okamoto of RM Towill, right, take notes on residents’ concerns on the Lihue Town Core Mobility and Revitalization Project Thursday during the public informational meeting at Elsie Wilcox Elementary School in Lihue. Third from left, County Councilmember JoAnn Yukimura asks a question.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Lihue residents and business people listen as Michael Okamoto of RM Towill use maps to explain facets of the Lihue Town Core Mobility and Revitalization Project Thursday evening during the public informational meeting at Elsie Wilcox Elementary School in Lihue.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    The county’s Michael Moule, standing left, and Pat Griffith of the Lihue Business Association, standing right, have a discussion on facets of the Lihue Town Core Mobility and Revitalization Project Thursday during the project public informational meeting at Elsie Wilcox Elementary School in Lihue.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Lee Steinmetz of the county, left, and Milissa Ceria of Kiewit Construction, right, use a map to explain a traffic feature Thursday during the Lihue Town Core Mobility and Revitalization public informational meeting at Elsie Wilcox Elementary School in Lihue.

LIHUE — For many, Lihue is the heart of Kauai, and the Rice Street revitalization project is something to be excited about.

“Our county government is here, our state government is here, our airport is here, our institute for higher learning is here in the Lihue District,” said Pat Griffin, Lihue Business Association president. “Our harbor is here in Nawiliwili, which is part of the Lihue District.”

There are twice as many people working in Lihue on weekdays as putting their heads on pillows at night, she said.

“Traditionally, Lihue was the gathering place and it deserves to be that now,” Griffin said.

About 40 people gathered Thursday night at the Wilcox Elementary School cafeteria for an update on the project. It started in 2014 with some design workshops, progressed to the application process for the $15 million TIGER (Transportation, Investment Generating, Economic Recovery) grant, and then to the awarding of the grant.

Tim Clark, project manager with Kiewit, said they should be able to start construction within the year.

“We’re at the tail end of putting that together and you can imagine that’s really exciting for us,” he said.

The design work is about 70 percent complete. Staff are in the process of securing permits and will continue to work on public outreach and business coordination, Clark said. Construction will be broken down into two phases.

“Phase one has four different components to it essentially and then phase two is a pretty big piece of work that will also be broken up into components mostly because we’re going to get started with some of this sooner,” he said.

The phase one components include Rice Street and several side streets. Phase two includes the civic center parking lot, the bus transit center, a covering on the school parking lot in the area, and a shared use path that connects the civic center to the convention hall.

The vision for the project originated at a time when things were financially tough for the county, said Acting County Engineer Lyle Tabata.

“The county was looking for ways to kick-start our community and this grant sprung up on us from our consultants in Washington, D.C., and they presented it to us and we jumped right on it,” he said.

The genesis was to find a way to fix the infrastructure and find a sense of place that would “allow the community to rally around our Lihue town core.”

“When I was growing up as a kid, everything happened in Lihue,” Tabata said.

He remembered Christmas parades with lights strung across the street, two theaters, the bowling alley that had the best meatloaf.

“Everybody used to come to Lihue,” he said.

The project is intended to reinvigorate the town core and provide a platform for economic recovery, Tabata said.

Dr. Tanya Gamby owns an office building in Lihue. “I think making all of the community town centers more walkable and easier for bikers and pedestrians is exciting and a good development for Kauai,” she said.

It’s also important to reduce transportation because of climate change, Gamby said.

“I think it enhances communities to have people using and interacting in the community more actively,” she said.

Lloyd Yonenaka, vice president of CommPac, the public relations firm working on the project, said many times when the public thinks about construction, roads, concrete and asphalt come to mind.

“The truth of the matter is all of the infrastructure is about people,” he said. “It allows us to get from point A to point B. It allows us to drive safely. It allows us to pick up our kids in a timely manner. Hopefully it directs the traffic to the positive.”

Americans with Disability Act coordinator Linda Nuland-Ames said the project will increase access for individuals with mobility devices or mobility limitations.

“We have problems with access in some of the areas with sidewalks and poles blocking the way and the curb cuts needs to be smoothed out,” she said.

Nuland-Ames said these improvements will also make it easier for people with children pushing a stroller or a shopping cart.

“I think it’s going to be beautiful,” she said.

  1. bumbye October 21, 2018 7:00 am Reply

    The County keeps referring to this project like its free money. Its not. It is the same 80/20 split that is given for any Federal supported road project. We should be spending our County share ($3M) to fix our poor condition roads instead of a shared path between the County Building and the Convention Center, or sidewalks on Hoolako, or bike lanes on Rice Street or through Molokoa. Think about it when you drive on Maluhia, Koloa, Olohena, Kawaihau, Kaapuni and other roads.

  2. Uncleaina October 21, 2018 10:39 am Reply

    Not a single mention of the MAIN PROBLEM- they’re removing a traffic lane in each direction on Rice St!!!! Instead we’re getting a bike lane! And our “leaders” call this progress. The only 4 lane roads in Lihue are rice st and Kuhio Highway and our traffic-especially in Lihue- is terrible. I (and several thousand other people) use Rice st to get to work every morning. As it is the traffic is bad and removal of 2 lanes will cause our overburdened little island to grind to a stop. Idiots think this is a good idea. How many aunties you see riding bikes eh? The existing bike lanes by the mall are EMPTY!!! You guys have confused Lihue with San Francisco again! We ain’t them and their electric buses and commuter bikes won’t work here and after all that money is wasted you’ll be wondering why no one ever started walking around Lihue. Because there’s NOTHING THERE!!

    1. Art December 2, 2018 10:23 am Reply

      True. Removing a lane will cause even more craziness. Common its about to be 2019 the population is growing. They keep building things and not building ROADS. Open your eyes!

  3. Uncleaina October 21, 2018 11:21 am Reply

    And usually I don’t add a follow up comment- but this is just so ridiculous on so many levels that it deserves more. First question- if you make Rice st a pedestrian area- where do people park? There’s not enough parking already! And this plan removes existing parking! Someone thinks that Lihue, which has less than 10% of the population, has enough people who want to ride their bike to Walmart or a coffee shop to warrant removing vital traffic lanes? Both this plan and the plan about 6 years ago to further expand bus services have the same flawed logic: that somehow by adding something new that you’ll change people’s behavior. Joanne convinced us we needed more buses because that would add more riders- but in fact ridership went up only 5% despite adding 25% more buses. So they’re more empty now! Same logic behind this debacle. If there’s no demand to start with, making it better/easier doesn’t change anything! How will adding bike lanes in Lihue benefit someone from Waimea? Or someone from Hanalei? Are they gonna drive to town with their bikes and ride around? Are the new flower boxes going to make them want to “sell their gold”? Rice street can’t even support the few businesses that are there! Sure the brewery is cool, but the street is mainly abandoned car dealerships, law offices, county buildings, and a run down strip mall. None of that is about to change. So it becomes the literal definition of backwards thinking- that something we don’t want will change because you made something new. What we need is ROADS so we don’t waste our precious lives stuck in traffic on a RURAL island! Traffic on a rural island- can anything be more ridiculous??

  4. I saw a Vampire once October 22, 2018 1:16 pm Reply

    Is it a big project? Phase 1, 2? No big deal to me.

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