State project
in Kula criticized

The highway work was stopped
after it cut into blooming jacaranda
trees and roadside hills

KULA, Maui >> Along a 9.5-mile stretch of upcountry Maui highway, the purple-blue jacaranda flowers of Kula are blooming and so too is public criticism about a state project that has cut into at least six of these trees and the roadside hills.

The criticism prompted state officials last Wednesday to halt a $2.5-million Kula Highway improvement project that included the installation of guardrails and a roadside drainage gutter.

Maui Outdoor Circle president Warren McCord said his organization and several other groups have been working with state officials this week to develop an alternative plan for the two-lane country highway.

McCord said the alternative plan will be presented at a public meeting at 7 p.m. tomorrow at the Kula Elementary School.

Ferdinand "Freddie" Cajigal, the highways manager on Maui, said the construction work from King Kekaulike High School to Keokea Park, which started a couple of weeks ago, was intended to prevent erosion on the sides of highways during storms.

"We're trying to do a better drainage system," he said.

Cajigal, who ordered a halt in the construction after receiving complaints, said the state did not instruct the contractor to cut any jacaranda trees and the contractor is working with a plant expert to develop an alternative plan.

Kula resident Barbara Long said the construction has cut into at least six trees, scraping the bark off one tree and cutting away the roots of others. "They have cut roots as large as 8 inches in diameter," she said.

Long said the soil near her home in Keokea is powdery and crumbles easily once exposed to the wind and she fears the construction has undermined the hillsides.

"They are going to have to repair the damage to the banks," she said. "Otherwise, the problem is going to be 20 times worse."

McCord said residents are also worried about the state taking away road shoulder space that is used by residents along the narrow four-mile corridor between Rice Park and Keokea Park.

He said residents want the shoulders to remain level and that if erosion controls are needed, they should be built against the banks of the hills.

"This road is used by joggers, hikers, bicyclists and women pushing baby carriages more than any road on Maui," he said.

McCord said the alternative plan also proposes eliminating some guard rails, including those that would be placed in front of jacaranda trees.

Cajigal said the drainage gutters are being added to the roadside shoulders and will not take away space from the paths used by pedestrians and cyclists. But he said that during construction, crews will be using the shoulder area to create additional space for the drainage.


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