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Residents: Jog highway inland in eroded areas

By Staff | Feb 16, 2012

WEST MAUI – “Don’t touch it!”

“Leave it as is!”

“I don’t want to lose it.”

Although Honoapiilani Highway south of Lahaina is under attack by natural forces, there are a number of West Siders – kanaka, kama’aina and malahini – who want to protect the eight-mile scenic route from Puamana to the Pali, and they have legitimate options to offer.

Dr. George Lavenson, surgeon, thinks the recent articles published in the Lahaina News have exaggerated conditions of the eroding roadway.

By his calculations, “The majority of the Honoapiilani Highway from the Pali to Puamana is perfectly fine. The erosion mentioned in this series of articles only affects about ten percent of the highway, and these local areas can be managed by elbowing in the road or laying a parallel lane on the inner side of the highway at these sites without having to move the whole highway inland.

“This has already been done in a few areas,” Lavenson continued. “This sensible approach preserves our beautiful and world-famous shoreline drive, where locals and visitors alike can stop anywhere they wish to beach, surf, fish, paint or just look.”

This reasonable solution, he added, “costs much less than moving the whole highway. Managed this way, there is no emergency now or in the foreseeable future.”

Elizabeth Whitehead is a Lahaina girl, born, raised and ingrained.

Heartfelt and practical, she has fond memories of the country road.

“It has been there forever. As a little girl, when I was like five or six years old, my father used to take us down that road. We used to go picnicking and fishing in the kiawe bushes just before the Pali,” she recalled.

“Local families, we like to just drive up to the beach, and that’s the only stretch of beach from the Pali to Puamana that locals and visitors can drive right up to and enjoy without having any restrictions,” she said.

“I would love to keep that road there. The trouble spots – I don’t see any problem. They can jog it in a little bit. Remember when they were putting that drainage in at Puamana? They jogged the road to come uphill and come around. They did that in no time at all. They can do that. It would probably be less costly to do that.”

“I know a whole lot of people who feel the way I do,” Whitehead commented, “I think there is a simpler solution. They should be fixing the bad spots on the road. Move the road in a bit; it’s not going to hurt.”

Matthew Erickson, president of the Lahaina Hawaiian Civic Club, is on the same page.

“I’d love to see the highway diverted more mauka in those areas that are really hot,” the 1996 Lahainaluna High School graduate said.

“I know the area approaching Launiupoko from Lahaina is really bad as well as just past the Olowalu Landfill site. If areas like this could be identified and have the roadway make its way inland, while areas that aren’t as bad remain as is, I think this would still allow the grandeur of the drive to remain, while keeping everyone safe.”

Erickson went one step further with his recommendation: “At these areas where the highway would go inland and if the area would allow, then converting them into little parks or rest stops would be helpful to recreational ocean users.”

Other realignment proposals have been spurned. Some say they are developer-driven.

“People that I know feel that these articles on the highway erosion paint the situation as much worse than it is and give the perception, right or wrong, that the highway has to be moved,” Dr. Lavenson commented.

Lavenson explained his position.

“This adds fuel for the developers and landowners who have used the erosion issue as a justification to move the whole highway mauka, so that they can take over the shoreline with their developments. The result would not only be to take the shoreline away from the public but, by the developments, to cause much worse damage to the shore and oceanic environment than now occurs.”

In any case, the governing authority over Highway 30 is the State of Hawaii, and its action plans appear to be in accord with the community’s fix-and-preserve philosophy.

Next week, an update on two of the state Department of Transportation’s Statewide Transportation Improvement projects on the books for 2011-13 along Honoapiilani plus the current emergency roadwork under way at Ukumehame.