North Shore residents demand solution to 'Turtle Beach' traffic
SUNSET BEACH (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state has been studying the possibility of building a bypass road to ease a big traffic backlog on Kamehameha Highway at Laniakea Beach. But some North Shore residents told transportation officials Wednesday that they've waited long enough for a solution.
They say the problem stems from visitors parking at Laniakea and then crossing the highway to see the turtles that often rest there.
One short-term solution comes from the owner of the ranch across the highway from the beach. "Putting a guardrail along the makai side, or maybe some areas so maybe the tour buses cannot stop," said John DeSoto of Kawailoa Ranch. "And that's what they're doing. They're stopping, they're looking at it, they're getting out, so the traffic's just backing up all the way."
DeSoto is a member of a task force that held its second meeting at Sunset Beach Elementary School Wednesday evening. The panel is made up of community members, area businesses and landowners. But it's lacking one representative.
"Do you have someone on the board from the tourism industry?" asked North Shore resident Melissa Ginella, who was among the 40 or so people who attended the task force meeting. When told that the state tried, but was unable to get such a representative, she added, "Well, they're the ones who stop on both sides of the road and create the most havoc. Stop them."
Residents also told transportation officials that turtles come ashore at many other North Shore beaches, not just Laniakea. "If we just re-direct the tourists to another beach that's off the highway, like Haleiwa Beach Park by the monuments, the turtles come up there," said resident Karen Gallagher. "There's parking. There's bathrooms. There's showers. It's safe. It's easy access."
Another resident, T. Dilcher, agreed. "We will relieve all of our recent congestion problems in one second. It will cost nothing. Just move the whole business operation there. The turtles will come when you throw them cabbage and everybody will be happy. It's that simple," he said, drawing applause from the audience.
The state's study of a possible bypass road is scheduled to take another two years, and construction would take several more years. As far as a short-term solution that residents demand, "We need to get some buy-in from the Department of Transportation, and, uh -- I'll leave it at that," said state Rep. Gil Riviere (R-North Shore-Schofield-Wheeler). "We gotta get the Department of Transportation moving."
The task force is scheduled to meet again in two months.