Pitted private roads causing headaches for residents, businesses

Published: Dec. 31, 2015 at 7:01 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 31, 2015 at 11:50 PM HST
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EAST HONOLULU, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It hasn't rained in a couple days but there's a half of foot of standing water on Colburn Street in Kalihi.

"Trucks will drive through really fast causing a wave of water to come through," said Sun Noodle quality assurance manager Jennifer Shido, whose business is on the roadway.

A lack of drainage isn't the only problem.

"The holes keep getting bigger and bigger," Shido added.

But Shido can't complain to the city or the state about the condition of the roadway.

Colburn Street is privately-owned, which means government isn't accountable for its upkeep -- and moving someone to maintain is next to impossible.

State Rep. Karl Rhoads said he's identified 26 privately-owned roadways in need of upkeep in Kalihi alone.

Rhoads says trying to track down the owners of privately-owned roads is a tedious and lengthy process.

When he sought to figure out who owned Rawlins Lane, he combed through tax records and even tried paying for a title guarantee search.

"The last person they know owned the lane was a guy named William Achi who died in 1947," Rhoads said. "When we got up to 60 possible heirs we gave up."

The city or state can claim abandoned roads if there has been no ownership activity for five years. But government isn't interested in taking on privately-owned roads in need of major upkeep.

City Department of Facilities Maintenance Director Ross Sasamura said the city just can't afford to make the necessary improvements to private roads that haven't been maintained for decades.

"Many of these private streets don't have any drainage. There's no gutter, there's no curb, there's no sidewalk," he said. "In situations like that the city cannot make improvements to the street. The owner themselves would be left to fund all the work that would be required."

When the owners are absent, business and residences along privately-owned roads are left to tackle the problems on their own.

Maui Bay Shirt Company owner Alan Sabate said he moved into his business on Kalani Street three years ago, and has had to tackle a steady string of problems with the privately-owned roadway.

The roadway is pitted and has drainage issues. Worse, it's fairly busy.

"A lot of people come through when Dillingham or Nimitz is stuck," he said.

Sabate added, "We bring our rocks you know and fill it as best we can. We don't really get any help."

Shido, who's along Colburn Street, says it's not realistic to ask homeowners or small businesses to maintain roadways.

"We need help. We can't fix these roads on our own," she said.

But it's unlikely government will find a long-term fix to the problem.

Rhoads' best advice? Before moving into a street, figure out who's responsible for maintaining the road.

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