Tuesday, January 23, 2001
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Posted on: Tuesday, January 23, 2001

Education, roads top Leeward legislators list

By James Gonser
Advertiser Leeward Bureau

Better roads and schools. That’s what Leeward legislators say are the top priorities for their communities this session.

Critical issues include making Farrington Highway safe — there were 12 traffic-related fatalities last year — and building a secondary access route to the Waianae Coast in case of emergencies. In the Kapolei area, the growing population needs roads to connect homes and businesses. All Leeward legislators say upkeep of public schools is falling further behind.

"We’ve got to really go out there and look at alternative ways of taking care of repair and maintenance," said State Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, D-21st (Barbers Point, Makaha). Hanabusa said she has been working on a plan to create a quasi-public foundation to fund the $600 million needed to catch up on school repairs.

"The governor’s way of $50 million a year, $50 million a year, will never catch up with the problem. It’s not working," Hanabusa said. "(This bill) is going to be one of the most exciting pieces of legislation that is going to come out of this session."

Hanabusa would like to transfer to the city $1 million that had been earmarked to study building a mauka highway into the coast through the Waianae range. The money is about to lapse, she said, and the state Department of Transportation is reluctant to spend the money for a highway it thinks will never be built.

"(The DOT) said why use it when they know it’s a half-billion dollar project that will never be funded," Hanabusa said.

An emergency access road has become an issue in recent years after crashing waves, traffic accidents and water pipe breaks left commuters stranded in their cars for hours.

The city has begun a project that will put together a network of existing back roads to create a route for area residents during emergencies.

Rep. Michael Kahikina, D-43rd (Barbers Point, Waianae, Maili), said the city road project needs state support.

"As the local representative I want to show synergism that I appreciate the mayor and his visioning team to address the short-term solution," Kahikina said. "The long term solution is a mauka road. We need to keep that thought alive."

Rep. Emily Auwae, R-44th (Waianae, Makaha), said that with more people living along the Waianae Coast, safety needs must be addressed.

"People need to realize the coast has grown and there are needs out there," Auwae said. "I’ll be looking for funding for another ambulance in Waianae."

Sen. Brian Kanno, D-20th (Ewa Beach, Makakilo, Kapolei), said he will pursue money for widening Fort Weaver and Kunia roads and completing North South Road. Kanno said the state’s ferry service demonstration project last year showed commuters will use the service and it helps get cars off crowded roads.

Kanno says overcrowded schools and ongoing construction, plus $43 million to complete Kapolei High School, which opened last year, are a priority.

By the end of the month, the Department of Education will decide on redistricting students from the overcrowded Mauka Lani and Makakilo elementary schools, possibly to Barbers Point Elementary, where there are fewer students after the base closure. Rep. Mark Moses, R-42nd (Kapolei, Ewa Village, Village Park) is looking for funds to complete the Kapolei Public Library, which broke ground last month.

"We got the money to get it started, now we need the money for books and staff," Moses said.

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