Hana RoadTHE fabled Hana Highway, on the northeast shore of the island of Maui, stretches 54 miles from Kahului to the remote town of Hana.
A video trip down the
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By Blaine Fergerstrom and Gary Kubota
The highway winds its way through lush tropical rainforest, over dozens of one-lane bridges and narrow sections of roadway. Many have called the day-trip down the twisting, turning road a perilous journey.
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In recent years, the state has worked to improve the highway, bringing the road surface up to modern standards.
But nearly all of the bridges between Kahului and Hana remain as they were originally built in the early 20th Century: one lane, with yield signs at both ends.
Drivers are expected to stop at each end and, through "country courtesy," negotiate who will cross the bridge first.
The one-lane sections help keep the overall speed down on the highway, which has a speed limit of only 10 or 15 miles-per-hour.
The state has plans to replace many of the bridges with two-lane, modern spans, to bring them up to standard.
Many of the residents and visitors we spoke with on the road to Hana disagree with the plan.
East Maui Irrigation maintenance worker Leland Hoopii:
"Widen the road all right, but if you only going widen the bridge, goin' make um two lanes, guys goin' try beat one another, eh? But uh, so if like one lane like this, all the guys know you gotta yield to oncoming traffic."
Claudette LaRoche and Ben Benjamin from Boston seem to agree:
Star-Bulletin reporter Gary Kubota: "If the bridges -- the one lane bridges -- need repair, they may turn them into two lane bridges and make them a bit more modern. What do you think about that?"
LaRoche: "I say no. I think it would distract from the beauty."
Benjamin: "I think ... if there are a lot of accidents, then I would say change it. If there aren't any accidents it's probably good because it makes people slow down."
Helen Nakanelua (89) has lived at Keanae Point on the Hana Coast since the 1930s. She owns a taro farm passed down for five generations in her family, dating to King Kamehameha the Third's Second Mahele of 1847.
'Hana Road' Kiho'alu
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©2000 Jens W.L. Hing
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Kubota: "How's the traffic right now upside (on the highway)? Is it pretty fast, faster than before?"
Nakanelua: You mean right now? Oh, certainly. It's faster, faster. And that's why I don't think, people don't want the road to be widened. Because if they widen, they have the road wider, the traffic will be much in a hurry, rushed and everything. Too fast as it is right now! How many accidents do we have?
"Tourists come in, go over the cliff because they speed. And then they climb over the rail and when there's no rail they say the county didn't put rail. But when there's a rail there they go outside of the rail or carry on (on) the bridge over there and you wonder why they make.. they fall and die! There's how many already on these...
"So I don't blame Hana, and over here I don't want the road to be widened. Leave 'um as it is. That case they cannot speed, they cannot... (sigh) Boy, they think this is the city!"
In Hana Town, we spoke with Harry Hasegawa of the General Store fame:
Hasegawa: "I like the country lifestyle and I think to preserve the atmosphere of the area, I think it should be kept, as much as you can, is best.
"Keep the bridges small and narrow, maybe I can have a longer life!"
[State jurisdiction of Hana Highway ends at Hana town and Maui County takes over. Recently, the county floated a similar plan to upgrade "Make Man" and Kapahanohano bridges to two lanes.
Residents spoke against the plan and the county reconsidered. The two bridges will remain intact, for now.]*
It remains to be seen if the state will go ahead with its plan to modernize the rural highway, and along with it, the way of life along the entire coast.
I'm Blaine Fergerstrom for Starbulletin-dot-com.
"Hana Road" slack-key (kiho'alu) by Jens W.L. Hing
* Note: These two paragraphs were edited from
the final version of the video for lack of time.
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