Judge says Laniakea parking barrier blocks access to city park

Judge says Laniakea parking barrier blocks access to city park

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow)

The state set up a 950-foot-long concrete barricade in December of 2013 to prevent people from parking on the mauka side of Kamehameha Highway opposite Laniakea Beach. In January 2014 Save Laniakea Coalition and five watermen sued the State DOT to have the barrier taken down, alleging the state didn't follow permitting procedure. On Thursday, Circuit Court Judge Gary Chang said the barrier blocks public access and parking, and it has to go.

"The court would order the Department of Transportation to remove the barriers as soon as practicable," he said.

The DOT put up the barricade to prevent people from parking in a large pullout area and then jaywalking to get to the beach and a spot to view turtles.

"To have a free-for-all with hundreds or thousands of people today just wandering across the road, everybody has to stop for the pedestrians. It's chaos," deputy attorney general John Price said.

The barrier was also supposed to ease traffic tie-ups.

"Our anecdotal observations is it didn't. It's just worse down the line. It's more unsafe there. And on the heaviest days it's just as bad as it ever was," said plaintiff's attorney Bill Saunders.

The state originally said the barrier would be there for a one-month demonstration project. It's been up about 18 months.

"What we are looking for is a safer place for people to park as well as a more orderly way for the cars to flow through this very important area of Kamehameha Highway," said Blake McElheny of Save Laniakea Coaliton.

In 2013, the city Department of Planning and Permitting didn't require DOT to get a Special Management Area permit. Now the city has changed its mind. The state is applying for the permit and working on an Environmental Assessment.

Chang urged compromise.

"Try to bear in mind the safety risk of not having barriers to protect both pedestrians and the motoring public," he said.

The state and city talked about moving Kamehameha Highway farther in-land, creating more shoulder space next to the shoreline. The city owns three acres of land mauka of the highway. Two years ago state lawmakers appropriated $7 million for a bypass project.  McElheny said many community members want the city and state to move ahead on  realigning the highway.

Barring an appeal of the judge's ruling or another development, the barricade must be removed within 30 days of the court's order being finalized.

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