Tempers flare at Laniakea traffic meeting

Tempers flare at Laniakea traffic meeting
Published: Sep. 5, 2013 at 9:22 AM HST|Updated: Sep. 6, 2013 at 3:17 AM HST
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SUNSET BEACH, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - If you wanted to take the temperature of the issue regarding parking and traffic at Laniakea Beach on Oahu's North Shore, all you had to do was go to the Sunset Beach Elementary School cafeteria Thursday night to confirm that it was hot.

An overflow crowd jammed the "Talk Story" session organized by state Rep. Richard Fale  (R-Waiahole, Kaaawa, Punaluu, Hauula, Laie, Kahuku, Haleiwa, Waialua) to talk about solutions to mitigate traffic caused by crowds of people who regularly cross the highway to observe sea turtles on the beach.

One of the solutions is placing concrete barriers to close off the parking lot. "We can work with the barriers and the crosswalk," said Fale. "Those are the two immediate actions and steps we can take. And that's what we need the community to rally behind so that we can actually start marching down the road toward a solution."

"A lot of us support blocking of the parking experimentally," said Jeannie Martinson of the Sunset Beach Community Association. "And we are surfers there, and we love to snorkel there and we love to stand-up paddle."

But surfers who frequent Laniakea came out in force against the proposal. A few were already drawn to the beach late Thursday to check out a rising early-season swell.

"You may keep the turtle spectators away, but you're not going to keep surfers from their surf spot. That isn't gonna happen," said longtime North Shore resident Larry McElheny.

The meeting was heated at times, showing the anger and frustration of some residents.

"It's a dangerous road! These schoolchildren are in danger! Look at the condition of the road," yelled one man.

"Have some respect!," someone else yelled at the man, before he angrily left the meeting.

Some also expressed frustration at the meeting's format, in which people were asked to submit their questions in writing.

"This meeting is already set up for what you guys wanna do. And you're not here to listen to the people," yelled another man.

"We're trying to do that by listening to the people, one paper," responded the meeting's moderator.

While there were representatives from the city, which owns the parking lot, and Kamehameha Schools, which owns the beach area, there was no representative from the state Department of Transportation, which is responsible for Kamehameha Highway. Fale's office said the DOT was invited to attend, but declined.

"People thought the DOT would be here," said McElheny. "They're not here, so I think there's going to be some frustration about that."

The DOT has a task force meeting on the problem, scheduled for 6 p.m. Sept. 25 at Haleiwa Elementary School.

Several people left the meeting before it ended, saying it was a waste of time.

While opinion remains split on what the solution should be, most people agreed that something needs to be done right away.

Fale said that the proposed barricades will go in as a short-term solution.

"Remember, the goal has to be solving the traffic problem. The goal isn't just to drop barriers for the sake of dropping barriers," he said. "If it becomes a safety hazard, those have to be taken into account."

"Anyone that lives in Sunset has to plan their lives around the traffic," said Martinson. "We feel as taxpayers its just not fair."

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