North Shore residents sound off on DOT's Laniakea plans

Published: Sep. 26, 2013 at 1:37 AM HST|Updated: Sep. 26, 2013 at 3:14 AM HST
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HALEIWA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - North Shore residents told state transportation officials that barricading the parking lot at Laniakea Beach is not the solution for traffic problems in the area.

More than a hundred area residents attended a meeting Wednesday night at Haleiwa Elementary School of the Department of Transportation's Task Force on re-aligning Kamehameha Highway at Laniakea, with about two dozen airing their concerns.

The DOT said the primary focus of the meeting was to show and discuss long-term plans for the area. But the talk was about the short term solution to major traffic problems caused by the 600,000 visitors who go to Laniakea every year to look at the turtles who rest on the beach there.

"We've heard about crosswalks, we've heard about overpasses and underpasses, about using the existing bridge, and we've been considering these things and we've been considering them with a large group of people," said lead planner Jim Hayes.

But after consideration, Hayes said the best solution is blocking the parking lot with concrete barriers as a short-term demonstration project.

"I know it's not going to make everybody happy, but this is what we've come up with," he said.

"I think it's a radical step," said Pupukea resident Blake McIlheny. "I beseech the talk force members to defer action on this proposal."

"Sure, it'll help the traffic, but at what price?" said North Shore resident Bob Leinau. "I think we deserve a whole lot better than what you're offering up."

Haleiwa resident Earl Dahlin called the idea "bull," and then asked for a show of hands from the audience. "How many guys does not want the barriers?", he asked. Hands shot up from about two-thirds of the crowd.

"Your job is to listen to us," Dahlin told the task force.

But the plan also had its supporters who spoke out.

"It's a bummer, it's not a best solution, but it's something," said Sean Ginella, who said he was among those who'd gotten stuck in the Laniakea traffic for the last ten years. "It's better than nothing, and I'm sick of nothing happening. Because nothing has happened. Let's make something happen, we've got nothing to lose."

Hayes said there are long-term solutions to move Kamehameha Highway so that it won't be in danger of being eroded by surf. But he told the crowd that those solutions would take about ten years to complete.

One resident came up with his own plan, re-aligning the highway and creating a parking lot, using what he said was mostly existing state and city land. He also said it wouldn't take ten years if officials declare an emergency.

"If you go back to when we had the problem with Waimea Valley, and there was an emergency, we took are of that in no time flat," said Bob Quinlan. "We have tourists subject to being killed by traffic right now. We have an emergency."

Although no vote was scheduled, the audience pressured the 19-member task force to take a preliminary test vote. Just seven members of the panel voted in favor of blocking the parking lot with barriers in a one-year demonstration project.

The vote was not binding, however, and DOT spokeswoman Caroline Sluyter said the department will still consider public comments made at the meeting before making a final decision.

Sluyter said if the project is approved, the barriers could be placed by the end of the year.

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