Saturday, August 20, 2005

Kauai highway will
be expanded

The thoroughfare will grow to
four lanes to help relieve traffic

LIHUE » Like on the other major islands, Kauai's residential and tourism growth has come with a price: daily traffic jams.

Gov. Linda Lingle, Kauai Mayor Bryan Baptiste and state Deputy Director of Highways Brennon Morioka sat down with reporters Thursday to discuss plans to alleviate that price of growth, announcing some short-term solutions as long-term plans move forward.

The Garden Island's two-lane highway, its major thoroughfare, will eventually become a four-lane road through the major population centers both east and west from Lihue, the governor and mayor said.

The projects could cost upward of $300 million and take a decade, Baptiste said.

In the meantime some short-term fixes are needed, such as traffic signal adjusting, using contra-flow for more hours and lengthening a temporary bypass road in Kapaa.

"This is one of the most important issues facing the County of Kauai," Lingle said. "We can't sit and wait for one big solution. We have to break (it) down into component parts."

The first steps to alleviate traffic have already been taken, the governor said. They include expanding contra-flow hours from Kapaa to Lihue in the morning and controlling the flow of traffic from the Lihue area to Kapaa in the afternoon. The extension to the Kapaa bypass is currently being built.

Next will come an addition to the bridges spanning the Wailua River, the mayor said, and the first part of widening the highway, heading from Lihue westbound to Puhi. The road widening is scheduled to start in 2007.

For long term, Baptiste has also been trying to get developers and federal and state agencies together about widening the highway from Kapaa to the Koloa area, getting discussions rolling on how to combat problems such as drainage, moving utilities underground and getting more detailed traffic counts.

"I can't support any development through the (Kapaa) corridor" until the traffic congestion is alleviated, Baptiste said.

Lingle said she applauded Baptiste's efforts, bringing the agencies together for such an important issue.

Traffic "is one of the top two quality-of-life issues every day" in Hawaii, she said, adding that sitting in traffic is keeping people away from their families, "constantly degrading their quality of life."

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