OAHU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) -The state is taking action to address traffic on Oahu’s North Shore near Laniakea Beach.
One thing was made clear Monday: The plan to address the congestion won’t involve a portable stoplight or crossing guards near the popular site, which attracts tourists eager to spot some resting turtles on the shore.
After years of gridlock, the state also won’t be pursuing a $65 million highway realignment project.
Instead, it’s going with a cheaper Plan B option.
The Department of Transportation says Plan A was to move a 2-mile stretch of Kamehameha Highway farther from the shoreline, but it’s been delayed by legal challenges, jurisdictional and permitting issues, and studies that prompted more studies.
The deputy director of Highways also puts the blame on lawmakers.
“The senator in that area said it’s not possible for him to get that money. So we know that moving forward on that longer alignment is probably not feasible anymore,” Ed Sniffen, of the DOT, said.
“That long-term solution not only would have addressed the safety and operational improvement in that area, but also the potential sea level rise that could inundate that highway in the future. That’s not an option right now,” Sniffen added.
But the lawmaker who represents that district said that wasn’t the case.
In a phone interview with Hawaii News Now on Monday, state Sen. Gil Riviere said the following:
Q: “He said specifically that you told him you couldn’t get the money. Is that true?"
A: "No, I don’t remember any conversation such as that.”
Q: "If the state said they could do it tomorrow for $65 million, would you be willing to get it, to fight for it?
A: “Of course ... I mean after 15 years of being personally involved and doing everything I can to move this conversation, there’s no way that I would hesitate to support a solution.”
The alternate plan is to widen the highway or move it slightly mauka to make room for parking along the beach so people won’t have to cross the road.
That will cost anywhere from $6 million to $8 million, and take about two years.
Meantime, the state wants to bring back the concrete barriers that were removed four years ago.
They were done away with due to a lawsuit. Re-installing the barriers would require the city’s permission, or the plaintiffs would have to drop their case.
Traffic isn’t the only concern for the area. Safety is an issue after a 10-year-old boy was struck by a car while crossing the road.
“Heaven forbid that another situation occurs that another kid gets hit in that area. We shouldn’t have more than one warning like that to let us know that we need to do something immediately,” Sniffen said.
Before the improvement work can begin, additional surveys will need to be completed.