The state plans to launch a study on realigning the highway | News, Sports, Jobs

A wave rolls over the side of Honoapiilani Highway in Olowalu during high tide on July 14. A recent study of the vulnerability of beach parks in Maui County found that more than 80 percent of the parks surveyed have low resilience to the impacts of sea level rise. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Improvements to a heavily traveled coastal highway are being made by the state Department of Transportation to mitigate the impact of shoreline erosion between Ukumehame and Launiupoko.

The DOT proposes to improve a roughly 6-mile stretch of West Maui’s Honoapiilani Highway to provide “a safe and reliable transport facility and to reduce risks and vulnerability to coastal hazards”, according to the Bureau of Planning and Sustainable Development’s Environmental Notice last week.

The aim is also to alleviate congestion and meet future travel demands, as well as complement surrounding conservation works that intend to protect natural resources.

“Consolidating and strengthening the highway’s reliability will improve the efficiency of not only the important daily travel demands of Island residents, businesses and visitors, but also critical emergency response services.” the report said.

Given the high seasonal surface area, king tides, stormwater runoff and projected sea level rise of 3.2 feet undermining the roadway, the proposed project aims to address the section from Mile Post 11 in the vicinity of Ukumehame Beach and Mile Post 17 at the terminus south of the existing Lahaina bypass in the vicinity of Launiupoko, south of the town of Lahaina.

The Hawaii Department of Transportation is proposing to improve a roughly 6-mile stretch of the Honoapiilani Expressway using one of four alternatives, which involve building a new expressway mostly along a different alignment. Hawaii Department of Transportation photo

The project site would be 3/4 of a mile inland from the current freeway alignment, covering the coastal plain in this area, the report said.

In the Statewide Coastal Highway Program Report, the Olowalu segment and the Ukumehame segment in Honoapiilani were ranked 2nd and 12th, respectively, on DOT’s list of priority projects to address coastal erosion.

Shorelines in these areas have been eroding between 1.4 feet per year and 1.9 feet per year on average, according to the University of Hawaii’s School of Ocean and Earth Sciences and Technology.

DOT issued a notice to invite public input on the proposed project and to notify the public that an environmental impact statement will be prepared in the future to study potential improvement options.

A preferred course of action among four possible alternatives for the improvement project has not yet been identified, but is anticipated to involve building a new freeway largely along a different alignment.

All alternatives would move at least a portion of the highway inland, away from the existing coastline and projected floodplains with sea level rise. At the Launiupoko end, all alternatives would connect the improved Honoapiilani Freeway with the Lahaina Bypass.

The proposed project plans align with the 2022 West Maui Community Plan Update and the 2005 Pali to Puamana Parkway General Plan.

Depending on the alternative the state chooses, acquisitions of private property may be required, but the improved highway would remain in the existing highway right-of-way and/or on county and state properties where feasible.

In Launiupoko and Olowalu, all alignments carried out would require acquisition of private properties. In Ukumehame, most of the property immediately mauka of the highway is owned by the government, so there would be little or no acquisition of private property in that area. Further mauka in Ukumehame, improvements would require significant acquisition of private property.

In addition, the project may affect areas currently in use or proposed for future residential, commercial, public facility, agricultural and/or park uses, the report said.

Other improvement actions and alternatives may be further developed as a result of input from the scoping process and public hearings, the report states.

Honoapiilani Highway is the primary travel route for residents and visitors to and from West Maui – connecting the region to major hubs such as Kahului Airport, Kahului Harbor, Maui Memorial Medical Center and other medical services, Costco, and other resources . not readily available in Lahaina, Kaanapali, Napili, Kapalua and Kahana.

“As the only access to this part of the island, road closures and delays have serious consequences for West Maui residents and the economy,” the report said. “Because there is no other route to central Maui, even slowing traffic along this stretch can have significant effects on the movement of people and goods, including access for emergency vehicles, missed flights and travel delays for drivers.”

In addition, portions of the current Honoapiilani Highway alignment are located in coastal flood hazard areas identified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Another repair project is currently being developed to address erosion, where 4,100 feet of highway in front of Ukumehame and 1,000 feet of highway in front of Olowalu will be moved 8 to 12 feet inland.

However, these projects are short-term solutions as they only address the worst locations where the road is already undermined.

Due to the scale, scope and complexity of improving the resilience of a single two-lane coastal highway, which may involve building an entirely new highway along a different alignment, the project could have significant environmental, cultural, historical, archaeological, recreational and community. impact, according to the opinion.

Because DOT and the Federal Highway Administration have determined that this project may have significant impacts, DOT/FHWA and cooperating agencies will prepare an environmental impact statement next year following public feedback next month.

A public hearing is anticipated for December 2023, followed by a 45-day public comment process.

Then in 2024, a possible final EIS will be published with construction starting in 2025.

State and federal funds will be used for this project. However, the estimated project costs for any construction alternative exceeded the limited funding available. An estimated cost was not included in the report.

The project received a US Department of Transportation Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure with Sustainability grant and equity to help fund it.

Two virtual public meetings will be held via Zoom from noon to 2:00 pm and from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm on December 14th and in person from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm on December 15th at the Lahaina Civic Center located at 1840 Honoapiilani Highway.

For more information about the proposed project or to provide comments, visit www.Honoa

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at [email protected]

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