All politics is local — Kapaa traffic

All politics is local — which is why I can’t figure out why we are still stuck in Kapaa traffic.

The four people in public office now who are primarily responsible are:

Senator Ronald Kouchi who represents all of Kauai and Niihau and is president of the Hawaii State Senate. One would think he has some juice when it comes to state budget priorities.

Rep. James Tokioka has served in the State House for over 20 years representing District 15 (Wailua Homesteads to Puhi).

Rep. Nadine Nakamura, who represents District 14 (Wailua Houselots, Kapaa to Haena), and who has done a stellar job responding to community needs generated by the North Shore climate disasters.

Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami who formerly was the state representative for District 14 which without question is the district most impacted.

Yes, I will for sure catch grief for naming names. And it is a given that I will be called out (How come you didn’t fix it!) for my responsibility, when I was serving as Kauai senator up until 2010.

The truth is, when I left the Senate 10 years ago, the plan to expand Kuhio Highway from the Wailua Bridge north to the existing bypass that connects to Olohena Road, had been approved and funds to start the project set aside.

Expanding this short stretch of highway to four lanes would make a huge difference to the residents of the Homesteads (where I live) and to the residents of Wailua Houselots. More importantly, the entire flow of traffic heading Lihue bound, would actually flow — as residents could turn right into the residential areas while the main flow continues unimpeded to Lihue.

But apparently, the shearwaters got in the way, planning and permitting got bogged down, and the funding was shifted to the Lihue/Puhi corridor.

During this same time period, the state/county and Kapaa Business Association came up with the Kapaa traffic mitigation plan which included “county options.”

Acknowledging that the state is responsible for Kuhio Highway, the plan offered numerous remedial improvement options that the County could undertake that would also help alleviate traffic. Perhaps the most ambitious of these options was a proposal to connect the Houselots directly with the Kapaa bypass road so residents could then avoid Kuhio Highway altogether. A “backdoor” Pooli Road connection to the Foodland shopping center directly from the bypass was also discussed.

Unfortunately for whatever reason the county has resisted getting involved in the Kapaa traffic corridor mess, preferring to leave it in the state’s lap. And yes, Lihue again seems to be getting the lion’s share of county money and attention — the “Rice Street improvements” seem to be nonstop.

So where does this leave those of us stuck in Kapaa traffic? What about the Kapaa businesses who suffer tangible economic harm from the pervasive “avoid going to Kapaa” syndrome their potential customers adopt?

The official response will of course be something to the effect of “Not to worry, construction on this project will be starting by the end of the year.”

I may be wrong, but it sure feels like this is the same response we’ve been getting for the past several years.

Those who know the history: from two lanes, to three lanes, to weekday contra-flow, to now weekend contra-flow — nothing seems to happen until people start making noise.

It is a universal truth that the squeaky wheel gets grease. While state leaders are most responsible, the county must also assume a leadership role in resolving this long festering problem.

The present traffic situation along the Kapaa corridor is unacceptable. It is unsafe, it is bad for business and it has negatively impacted our quality of life for far too long.

Enough already.


Gary Hooser formerly served in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kauai County Council and was former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) and is executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative.

  1. Uncleaina January 15, 2020 6:14 am Reply

    Saying that you or any of the elected officials have done anything but an abysmal job is false. All of you, going back 2 decades (at least) have done basically nothing to improve traffic. Nothing. Name something. All you can do is talk about how something almost happened. Great. A three lane highway? Is this a third world country? And my favorite response-frequently from Hooser supporters is “are you going to PAVE THE WHOLE ISLAND??”. Actually no. Just pave a fourth lane like 99.999% of other highways have so that a place that has only the population of a small suburb and only 58 miles of highway doesn’t have hour long traffic delays every day. Truth is no one, including Gary, did enough to fix this serious problem. Until there’s a way to make money via corruption, nothing gets done by our elected officials.

  2. TK January 15, 2020 6:46 am Reply

    “North Shore climate disasters”. I need proof the north shore floods are actually climate disasters otherwise you are just another leftist propagandist forcing your misguided world beliefs on others.

  3. Bluedream January 15, 2020 6:48 am Reply

    I think two quick fixes would be:
    First: to shorten the green light at the Wailua Houselots to 10 seconds max every 10 minutes for those folks during non contra flow times. They can wait to make 10 minutes to their left turn and patiently wait to merge right when the light stays red. Boom. Everyone happy except for Houselot residents who will scream and cry until Nadine can extend Eggerking into the bypass.

    The second fix is to have no parking on Kuhio Highway in downtown Kapaa from 8AM to 6PM- especially the Java Kai area, where rental cars are constantly pulling in and out, slowing northbound Kapaa traffic to a crawl. There is plenty of parking behind Java Kai. Let them all cry in their 5 dollars coffees about having to walk 20 more seconds from their Jeep Wranglers.

  4. kimo January 15, 2020 7:36 am Reply

    Mahalo for your comments Gary. It is appalling that unneeded or poorly thought out projects (such as Rice and Hardy streets) get time and energy but something like Kuhio Highway which impacts 1000’s daily is continually ignored.

    Maybe our politicians can’t properly prioritize projects for the greatest good. Or perhaps they are swayed by more nefarious reasons. At any rate, it is long past time for changes in the status quo. Vote for candidates who offer solutions and will fight to accomplish them.

  5. Kimberly O'Nan January 15, 2020 8:01 am Reply

    Thank you so much for being so direct about this Kapaa-Lihue traffic matter. We are at the mercy of our elected leadership to do something for us, only to be let down by them. Thank you Gary Hooser for speaking truth , I hope they listen.
    Kapaa Resident

  6. Debra Kekaualua January 15, 2020 8:04 am Reply

    All politics is not “local”. It is Illegally occupied by military u.s. complexity that has moved over Kapaa traffic corridor and the shearwater and the peoples like Hooser, Kouchi, Tokioka, Nakamura, Ige and all the others dressed in military uniform, suit n tie, and maybe one mu’umu’u at the upcoming legislature opener, where all these descriptions continue to control the population of americas voting citizens that like Iraq, Iran, and the rest of the 800 u.s. military bases around the globe continue their terrorism! I will add here too that the upgrades specific to Kauai PMRF, USAF, NASA, and the west Kauai Federally funded Monk Seal campers, where slave driver still exist and like the hui of those killing machine practicing, such as the ballistic missile incoming, not a drill and was not an “oops” as the politicians involved were interviewed by Horokane investigative reporters. Together, we have come up with at least fifty kauai guilty stolen mailbox items and these exposures are in the process of receipt, grand jury indictment and arresting those in the judiciary that has Zero jurisdiction as do the rest of those that will pay to play. Nuf already! Your deck of cards has begun to crumble and fall. Of course we are here and not going to be continuing the “unacceptable”. Kauai twice had the op to change the stupidity of these kinds of voters and this sick regime. Myself and Barca knows the scoop, not only Kauai, but throughout Hawaii-nei. Besides the guilty P.A. Kealoha stolen mailbox, there is attorney Sulla, Kauai, Maui and other Oahu P.A. that is next in line. Then, we will be moving in on the county government hierarchy and those like Derek, who are all going to be restoring Alcatraz.

    1. Steven McMacken January 17, 2020 5:20 am Reply

      Apparently, the meds haven’t kicked in yet.

      1. Jake January 18, 2020 8:02 am Reply

        You beat me to the punch.

      2. Debra Kekaualua January 18, 2020 9:01 am Reply

        You should have been at the DMV yesterday to see how things kicked in, when i actually got a standing, clapping ovation, staying tough AND getting my DL with the gold star that without it, you ARE a political prisoner, when THAT deadline is on! It doesnt take meds to stand against these hydrant leg lifting hui who think they above the law! I taught an entire room full of 80 people trying to do their business without having attitude by the scrub wahine that refused to assist, but then she got kicked under the Kauai bus, EVERYone bailed from behind their glass window stretch and I received what i came for and the scrub will be terminated for her lack of being cordial and in business mode, kauai style, NOT american!

  7. douglas henry January 15, 2020 10:17 am Reply

    I avoid that area at all costs. Think of the wasted fuel sitting in traffic for so long, day after day. Sad.

  8. Anonymous January 15, 2020 10:41 am Reply

    Gary, thanks for your input on the Krapue Traffic Jam and other civic matters. If a short widening of Kuhio Hwy was thought to be helpful in 2010, it would likely be a real blessing now after 10 more years of growth. The contra flow of traffic also seems to be helpful, maybe even BETTER if the contra flow lasted a few hours longer. The Big Box stores are mostly in Lihue. Those stores can be a difficult issue, but residents do shop there. Kapaa has good retail but lacks a large department store, [such as Target, present on the other 3 large islands] which might reduce traffic. County Government, I think, has also considered a small Kapaa office for some county services. And I’m sure other residents can contribute simple or inexpensive ideas that would help!

  9. manongindashadow0711 January 15, 2020 4:53 pm Reply

    Politicians are mostly to be blame for the handling of projects that should have been fix. However is given to another projects.
    Then, there are greedy land owners who keep their land for bigger better money.
    Then, there are those so call protectors of of the aina and sacred land.
    I guess, “being in a rot is best for these people mentioned above!”

  10. curious dog January 15, 2020 6:56 pm Reply

    How about allowing left turn on red when it’s clear?

  11. Sometimes you have to say no to the $$$ January 16, 2020 7:42 am Reply

    I think the politicians are doing a great job balancing out the flow of traffic on Kauai. Lihue is about to get the “Rice Street crawl”!!! 🙂 🙂

  12. Citizen Cane January 16, 2020 8:59 am Reply

    Two-lane divided highways around the island are the solution—and all the small-ball measures and theories like buses, cones or limiting rental cars are nothing but bromides, bandaids and bull-twaddle. When your roads are inefficient it’s like clogged arteries; the entire body politic suffers. And when they’re unsafe as well people die. Our children die. Where is the political will? 16 yrs ago I stopped Gary at the post office and asked him what was being done. He told me highways were the state’s issue. NOW he seems to realize it will take local pressure and county leadership and cooperation to move the issue. Hallelujah! But if that revelation is slow to dawn on current leadership all the state and federal funds will end up on Oahu and Maui and we may as well invest in donkey carts.

  13. Dt January 17, 2020 9:45 pm Reply

    We need to get real. Fear monger if that Kauai will turn into Oahu is ridiculous. Not going to happen just because a lane is added.

    How about we do the same thing to the whole island as rice street? We can do one lane for both directions. And 24 hour caravans like the north shore. Then nobody will want to move here 🙁

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