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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Wal-Mart traffic solution to be discussed

By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Central O'ahu Writer

Public meeting

What: Pearl City Neighborhood Board meeting

When: 6:30 p.m. today

Where: Pearl City Library, 1138 Waimano Home Road
While Wal-Mart has agreed to pay for some traffic improvements in Manana, where it plans to open its third store on O'ahu, the giant retailer hasn't settled with the city on who will pay for what.

Wal-Mart officials said in February that the company plans to pay its share of traffic improvements, which could total $1.5 million.

The company submitted onsite work and building permits to the city last month, said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Cynthia Lin. The city hasn't approved the permits yet.

Despite Wal-Mart's assurances that it is committed to making traffic improvements, residents are still concerned about the potential for even more traffic in a heavily congested area.

The Pearl City Neighborhood Board will hear resident concerns at its monthly meeting tonight.

"There's still some doubt as to who's going to improve the roadways," said Al Fukushima, chairman of the Pearl City Neighborhood Board.

The city identified five key needs considered vital once the store opens, which is expected to be early next year:

• Putting in new signals at the intersection of Kuala, Pepei and Makolu streets.

• Improving signaling and striping at the intersection of Kuala Street and Waimano Home Road.

• Modifying signals and striping at the intersection of Waimano Home Road and Kamehameha Highway.

• Improving right-turn access and modifying signals at the Acacia Road and Kuala Street intersection.

• Adding another right-turn lane onto Acacia Road from Kamehameha Highway.

Wal-Mart plans to split the cost of the improvements with the city. Some of them are projects the city was planning to complete before Wal-Mart showed interest in the Manana property, store officials said.

"We're still working on those plans," Lin said. "We're sharing the cost, but we don't know how just yet. It's still being finalized."

City Councilman Gary Okino said the plans Wal-Mart has proposed to help improve traffic flow will "make a difference."

"Wal-Mart wouldn't come in, too, if the traffic situation would be unbearable," said Okino (Pearl City, Waipi'o, Shafter). "That would affect their business. They really looked at this carefully."

The store will be located behind Pearl Highlands Center, where the company operates a Sam's Club.

The deal with Wal-Mart is part of a settlement with landowner Kamehameha Schools to give the city title to property near Sandy Beach on the Ka Iwi Coast. Failure to sell the 20-acre parcel of land would scuttle the deal with Kamehameha and potentially cost the city an estimated $200 million — about one-fifth of the city's $1 billion annual budget — to complete the land exchange and preserve the coast from development.

Even if the sale with Wal-Mart goes through, the city still must sell 26 more acres in Manana, turning the proceeds over to Kamehameha.

The city's deadline to sell the land is the end of this year.

"Until Wal-Mart gets all the permits approved and (are) ready to construct, they won't close the deal on the property," Fukushima said. "Worse-case scenario, the lawsuit will be reinstated and the city will go back to court."

The city can't afford to return to court over this issue. Already it has raised bus fares and reduced the annual allotments of money for community vision teams.

"That's really added to our problems," Okino said. "And it will continue to add to our problems. It's terrible."

Reach Catherine E. Toth at ctoth@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-8103.