Sierra Club survey:By Gary T. Kubota
Visitors opposed to
WAILUKU -- An opinion survey of visitors to Maui shows there's little support for a proposed cloverleaf overpass above Hana Highway near the Kahului Airport, according to the Sierra Club on Maui.
Club official Lucienne de Naie said about three-fourths of those responding to the visitor preference survey said the proposed four-lane road was "too urban" and would detract from the Maui experience.
"The majority of people said this is not what we come to see," de Naie said.
"I think it's (the overpass) really going to turn people off."
The results of the survey of 1,000 visitors, conducted by Sierra Club volunteers, were released during a news conference yesterday.
De Naie said the survey was conducted by Jeff Mangel, an environmental scientist with a master's degree from the State University of New York's College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
State highways official Robert Siarot said the proposed cloverleaf overpass, located in the vicinity of Pulehu Road, is still in the design stage, and that talks are taking place between state highway and airport officials.
"It's not finalized yet. It hasn't been decided on," Siarot said.
Siarot said before a decision is made, a public hearing will be held about the proposed land use.
Ernest Kurosawa, the state airports engineering program manager, said traffic studies included in an airport master plan indicate a need for an interchange.
If approved, the four-lane interchange and highway from the airport to Puunene is expected to cost an estimated $58 million, Kurosawa said.
The first phase of construction would be completed by July 2001.
The Sierra Club survey included eight questions and focused on finding out what visitors find most attractive about Maui.
De Naie said the survey found 81 percent of the visitors are willing to contribute $1 a day in addition to their room rates to preserve Maui's natural areas, coastline and Hawaiian cultural sites.
De Naie said 79 percent of the visitors felt more tourists would ruin the Maui experience, and only 7 percent said that there was room for more people.
She said visitors were interviewed at random at various locations, including the airport, bed and breakfast establishments, luaus, and Haleakala National Park.
De Naie said the results of the survey appear to support her group's position against expanding the runway to allow more direct overseas flights into Maui.
A coalition of groups has opposed the runway extension and has been fighting in the courts against its development, despite support for it from businesses and most state and county elected officials.
Maui Hotel Association Executive Director Terryl Vencl said the trend globally is for visitors to take shorter and more frequent vacations, which makes convenience an important factor.
She said in such a competitive environment, the runway extension would help to keep Maui's visitor industry competitive.
"If we don't move in that direction, we're going to be left in the dust," Vencl said.
Vencl said an overpass can be designed with the landscape so that it has "a sense of place."