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How to ease East Maui congestion? Toll road, visitor cap among proposals eyed

Published: Jun. 18, 2021 at 6:24 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 18, 2021 at 8:32 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A toll road, a cap on visitors, even a reservation system.

All of these proposals are being discussed as possibly ways to help ease congestion in east Maui.

“Something needs to be done. Because a lot of locals are angry, I mean very, very angry over the amount of people and their attitude,” said Kanale Opiana, a tour guide on the Valley Isle for 30 years.

He says he has never seen this many visitors along the road to Hana.

“I think a toll system would be the best so that you can control the amount of people coming inside,” Opiana said.

State officials say making Hana Highway a toll road could potentially jeopardize federal funding.

“There would be no way a toll could cover the maintenance and the replacement of those bridges that are necessary,” said Ed Sniffen, Hawaii Department of Transportation’s deputy director for Highways.

Sniffen also said capping the road to a limited number of people is not legal.

“Closing off that road just to a portion, just to a maximum number, is not possible at this time because legally, it’s a public roadway, and public access is allowed to anybody,” Sniffen said.

“We’re always open to looking at different solutions for that area, but we just have to make sure from a legal perspective, we’re covered, and from a funding perspective, we’re doing the right thing.”

Sniffen said reservations at popular tourist destinations along the road to Hana — like what the state did at Waianapanapa — may help.

“Our state Legislature, and our county legislatures are still working on trying to see how we coordinate with those destinations to hopefully set up some kind of reservation system out there,” he said.

Twin Falls is a popular tourist destination along the Road to Hana which is privately owned. Family members of the property owner say a reservation system will not limit the number of vehicles on the road.

“Spring break we were counting 1,000 to 1,600 people in here,” said Ainahau Harold, who helps manage the area. “If they’re not going to get in some place, they’re just going to find another place.”

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