Af­ford­able hous­ing key to West Maui trans­porta­tion woes

Tes­ti­fiers think that if peo­ple can live where they work, con­ges­tion will ease

The Maui News - - TODAY’S PEOPLE - Staff Writer By COLLEEN UECHI

LA­HAINA — Some West Maui res­i­dents be­lieve they have a so­lu­tion to the nag­ging is­sue of traf­fic jams on Honoapi­ilani High­way, and it doesn’t have to do with the La­haina by­pass.

“The one thing you can do to get peo­ple out of their cars is to make them be able to live where they work,” Napili res­i­dent Amy Stephens told a crowd of around 100 at the West Maui Se­nior Center Tues­day night. “It’s a sim­ple equa­tion. Peo­ple need to live close (to work).”

Curb­ing lux­ury de­vel­op­ment and in­vest­ing in af­ford­able hous­ing were on the minds of many res­i­dents as they mulled trans­porta­tion solutions Tues­day. Hosted by the county Plan­ning De­part­ment, the meet­ing was part of the West Maui Com­mu­nity Plan up­date process, which kicked off ear­lier this year. Among the big­gest is­sues plagu­ing West Maui is traf­fic.

Just about ev­ery­one has a hor­ror story — La­haina res­i­dents stuck in Kahu­lui dur­ing fires; truck­ers who slept in their ve­hi­cles when ac­ci­dents shut down the road; and vis­i­tors who’ve missed flights be­cause the traf­fic was so bad.

“Trans­porta­tion def­i­nitely is No. 1,” La­haina res­i­dent Rose Crich­ton said be­fore the meet­ing. “I feel that we’re al­ready at max ca­pac­ity, so that is our No. 1 is­sue. And, of course, the type of de­vel­op­ment they plan on do­ing in the near fu­ture.”

Lau­ren Arm­strong, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Maui Met­ro­pol­i­tan Plan­ning Or­ga­ni­za­tion, ex­plained just how many ve­hi­cles tra­verse Honoapi­ilani High­way. Last year on an av­er­age day, about 25,000 ve­hi­cles drove across the pali in both di­rec­tions. Near La­haina, that num­ber was close to 30,000, and in Kaana­pali, it sur­passed 40,000. Ac­cord­ing to the com­mu­nity plan, about 8,000 cars a day are com­muters driv­ing in or out of West Maui for work, Arm­strong said.

“When we con­sider that there are 20,000 reg­is­tered rental cars on Maui, we can imag­ine that a lot of traf­fic is also made up of vis­i­tors,” she said.

Lisa Paul­son, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Maui Ho­tel & Lodg­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, said there were 740,434 car rentals in 2016 — which is not the num­ber of rental cars, but the num­ber of times peo­ple rented cars.

The county bus com­muter ser­vice for west side em­ploy­ees av­er­ages 450 em­ployee rides a day, Paul­son added.

With that in mind, res­i­dents voiced their sug­ges­tions to state and county trans­porta­tion of­fi­cials. Sev­eral peo­ple thought more car rental and main­te­nance fa­cil­i­ties should be placed in La­haina. Oth­ers asked for a di­rect bus route from the Kahu­lui Air­port to West Maui.

And, while the Plan­ning De­part­ment em­pha­sized a fo­cus on trans­porta­tion, many be­lieved the traf­fic so­lu­tion came down to de­vel­op­ment — lim­it­ing con­do­mini­ums and re­sorts and fo­cus­ing on hous­ing.

“To get cars off the road, let’s have true af­ford­able hous­ing to where you and me can ac­tu­ally buy a home,” La­haina res­i­dent Jeremy De­los Reyes said. “That’s one less car go­ing over the pali if peo­ple can live and work on the west side.”

Ford Fuchigami, di­rec­tor of the state De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion, said the de­part­ment has been putting most of its high­way re­sources toward preser­va­tion of ex­ist­ing road­ways to avoid los­ing a pipeline of fed­eral fund­ing that’s been build­ing up over the years. Re­duc­ing the pipeline opens the door to more fund­ing, which the La­haina by­pass sorely needs.

Ed Snif­fen, High­ways Divi­sion deputy di­rec­tor, said the by­pass’ next phase, from Keawe Street to the Kaana­pali con­nec­tor, will cost “about $60 mil­lion that we just don’t have right now.” How­ever, the de­sign is mov­ing for­ward so that when the fund­ing comes, the project is ready. The phase un­der con­struc­tion now, a twolane stretch of high­way be­tween Hokiokio Place and Olowalu, is ex­pected to be fin­ished by March 2018. By Fe­bru­ary, the de­part­ment wants to start putting traf­fic on the by­pass.

“Re­ally what this de­sign does is it puts ev­ery­body on the by­pass, which is a lot more ef­fi­cient be­cause you’re away from the shore­line now,” Snif­fen said. He added that “that whole por­tion of the lower road will stay in­tact . . . . All we’re do­ing is mov­ing the vol­ume to the up­per road to make sure when you get to the lower road, you can slow down.”

Mean­while, Paul­son said newer ho­tel prop­er­ties also have to com­mit to be­ing part of the county’s traf­fic plan. For ex­am­ple, the own­ers of the Westin Ka‘ana­pali Ocean Re­sort and Westin Nanea Ocean Vil­las have agreed to of­fer travel al­lowances — such as sub­si­dized monthly bus passes — for em­ploy­ees to use other modes of trans­porta­tion. The re­sort is also con­sid­er­ing a car­pool pro­gram for work­ers and of­fers guest shut­tles that car­ried more than 300,000 rid­ers last year.

As for the buses, county Trans­porta­tion Di­rec­tor Don Medeiros said he thought that “we need to max­i­mize the cur­rent sys­tem that we have — which cur­rently serves the air­port — be­fore we look to de­velop some­thing new and dif­fer­ent.” That could include re­duc­ing bus stop wait times. He added that be­cause the bus sys­tem gets fed­eral fund­ing, it can’t com­pete with the pri­vate sec­tor, which is what a non­stop route from the air­port would do to char­ter bus and taxi ser­vices. But Medeiros pointed out that with three stops, the La­haina route has some of the fewest stops in the sys­tem.

The dis­cus­sion on how that all fits into the com­mu­nity plan is just be­gin­ning. For now, the county will con­tinue to hold pub­lic meet­ings and work­shops. Next up is a com­mu­nity de­sign open house from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 30 at the West Maui Se­nior Center.

For more in­for­ma­tion, visit weare­maui.org.

Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.

The Maui News / COLLEEN UECHI pho­tos

Around 100 com­mu­nity mem­bers lis­ten to pre­sen­ta­tions Tues­day evening at the West Maui Se­nior Center. Hosted by the county Plan­ning De­part­ment, the meet­ing fo­cused on trans­porta­tion is­sues as part of the West Maui Com­mu­nity Plan up­date.

Ed Snif­fen

Ford Fuchigami

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