homepage logo

Residents surprised by Honoapiilani Highway roadwork starting this week

By Staff | Dec 7, 2017

LAHAINA – West Maui residents and officials are concerned about the state Department of Transportation’s plans for the Honoapiilani Highway Realignment Project (once called the Lahaina Bypass).

With little notice to the public – and beginning during the busiest time of the year for tourism – work on Honoapiilani Highway from Kupunakea to Keawe streets was slated to start Monday.

With an estimated completion date of September 2018, the $2.1 million project will create a second left turn lane from the highway onto Keawe Street, where the bypass begins, for southbound motorists.

The project also includes repairs to concrete sidewalks, roadway widening and resurfacing, modifications to turn signals and installation of pavement striping, markers and signs.

Work is slated from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays and 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Sunday evening through Friday morning. Motorists are advised to expect delays.

Lahaina resident Nell Woods was shocked to see the blueprints.

“Just when I think the state DOT has begun to realize how bad West Maui traffic has gotten, they once again display how clueless they really are,” she wrote in a letter to the paper.

“Just yesterday I was forwarded the blueprints for the planned realignment of Highway 30 through the heart of Lahaina to accommodate the southern addition to the Highway 30 Bypass. I thought there was time to scream bloody murder and bring a halt to the proceedings,” she continued, adding that she soon learned about the work starting Monday.

“According to the drawings I was provided, it is the intent of the state DOT to take the inside northbound lane of the highway and convert it to a second southbound turn lane from the highway onto Keawe. That means that all the northbound traffic coming into Lahaina, which has been traveling in TWO lanes, will be required to merge into one lane between Keawe and Kapunakea going north. CAN YOU SAY BOTTLENECK?”

The DOT’s contact for the project, Alan Matsuda, could not be reached for comment by presstime Friday morning.

Original plans for the Lahaina Bypass proposed it as a second West Maui traffic option. Starting near Launiupoko and extending to Honokowai mauka of Honoapiilani – with minimal traffic lights and development discouraged above the roadway – the bypass was intended to relieve traffic on West Maui’s one busy highway.

Now DOT plans to direct motorists driving toward West Maui onto the new Honoapiilani Highway Realignment Phase 1B-2 that starts near “Cut Mountain” and the Olowalu Recycling & Refuse Convenience Center and runs 2.7 miles to Hokiokio Road near Puamana, where the bypass currently begins.

Slated to be done in March 2018, this $38.7 million project includes an intersection with Kai Hele Ku Street as well as intersections at the terminus points.

The West Maui Taxpayers Association is concerned about the project and sent a letter to Gov. David Ige last week.

“It seems that an extension project of the Lahaina Bypass has metamorphized to be a replacement of over a mile section of the existing Honoapiilani Highway, which will create unnecessary stressors which we believe were unplanned for connector roadways as well as eliminate the existing option of staying on Honoapiilani Highway instead,” Joe Pluta wrote on behalf of the WMTA board.

“The Lahaina Bypass was designed as a bypass, not to be the new Honoapiilani Highway, and irrespective of the lack of funding for the next phase of the bypass or highway remediation funds, these changes should not be implemented. The roads that are built as ‘connector roads’ from Honoapiilani Highway were not initially designed for excessive capacity, and that is what will be the case at Keawe Street if these changes are implemented,” he continued.

“Please use your Executive Authority to help us and do not alter the highway or Keawe Street. Please allow traffic to flow as is currently and allow people to choose to use the bypass or stay on the highway. To err on the side of caution is far better than being wrong.”

Pluta said that Leah Belmonte, the governor’s Maui representative, arranged a meeting for WMTA with DOT Deputy Director Ed Sniffen on Tuesday, Dec. 5, at the department’s office in Kahului.

In addition to concerns about traffic back-ups and overnight construction noise, Woods is worried about the impact of the roadwork on visitors.

“It’s bad enough that those of us who live and work on the West Side will be subjected to this insanity; can you imagine how quickly our visitors will realize that West Maui is no longer their destination of choice? When they all stop coming, I guess that will resolve the issue. No visitors, no jobs, no traffic,” she concluded.