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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, December 13, 2001

New road to Kailua High advances

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward OÎahu Writer

KAILUA — A new access road to Kailua High School first sought 29 years ago has cleared what proponents consider to be the final hurdle.

Residents of the Pohakupu area knew in the 1970s the streets in their community were not safe when two elementary school children walking to school were struck by a hit-and-run driver heading to the high school. Even though traffic problems worsened, advocates were unable to win support for the project.

Three years ago, the Pohakupu-Kukanono Community Association began a new push. They sought community-wide support in Kailua and Waimanalo, convinced the city to buy into the project, gained commitments from area legislators and enlisted local businesses for material contributions.

Now, in what advocates hail as a breakthrough, Gov. Ben Cayetano has pledged up to $3.55 million for the road in the next state budget.

Writing to Mike Heh of the community association and Wilson Ho, chairman of the Waimanalo Neighborhood Board, Cayetano said certain conditions must be met.

However, Heh and Ho said the conditions do not pose any problems. Some of the conditions expand the project, but the $3.55 million would cover those, including construction of a lighted parking lot and safety improvements to Kalaniana'ole Highway where the new road would begin.

"We were happy to get the road," Ho said, "but the governor has promised us so much more money that we can get the lighting and extra parking."

The parking problem was created this year when the school used some of its parking area to build a new softball field. Hundreds of cars have to park in the community during large events now, said Heh, a Pohakupu resident who has spearheaded the road project.

Other conditions include:

  • The state Department of Public Safety must approve because the road will run above the Women's Community Correctional Center.
  • No Department of Education money can be used.
  • The city must maintain the road.

The community now will have to lobby the Legislature to approve the governor's financing request, but the project already has support from Windward lawmakers, Heh said. Recently the city offered its support and said it would maintain the road. Two local businesses, Ameron Hawai'i and RCI Construction, also pledged construction material.

The community association asked for a new access to the school 29 years ago and came close to getting one in the 1980s, Heh said. Three years ago he decided to try again.

The school is in the middle of the Pohakupu subdivision and is accessible from only one 19-foot-wide street that runs through the heart of the community. Students also can be dropped at the end of Akiohala Street in Enchanted Lake, but that street is fenced, preventing automobiles from going on campus.

The new road would benefit the community as a whole because traffic from Keolu Hills and Waimanalo would turn off Kalaniana'ole Highway and would not have to go through the junction at Castle Medical Center, avoiding the daily gridlock there, Heh said.

Traffic would move more freely and drivers won't need to cut through the Olomana subdivision.

"We estimate that the new access road would pull from 300 to 500 cars out of the Castle intersection mess," he said.

They decided to seek support at Hawai'i's highest level. The committee had been prepared to make a request to the governor just before Sept. 11 and decided to go ahead despite the terrorist attacks, citing the need for renewal and rebuilding. The governor agreed.

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com or 234-5266.