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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, May 26, 2007

Laniakea traffic fix sought

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser North Shore Writer

LANIAKEA With $1.2 million from the Legislature, the state Department of Transportation will begin assessing the feasibility of a highly sought-after traffic solution at Laniakea Beach on the North Shore.

Project supporters say the DOT has been reluctant to endorse the project in the past and were encouraged by news that the department plans to commission an environmental study.

"Hopefully this is enough money to get that thing done and get the show on the road," said Gil Riviere, who heads the North Shore Neighborhood Board's Traffic and Transportation Committee. "With the new director at the DOT it seems like we're getting stronger signals that it might just happen."

DOT spokesman Scott Ishikawa said the money will cover the estimated cost of an environmental study that will determine what can be done there. Once that is completed, the DOT can decide what to do, Ishikawa said.

"The environmental study would basically be the planning process for this," he said. "The reason you do planning is to find out the feasibility before you move on to design and construction."

The road next to the beach that is known for its turtle population and surf has become a bottleneck for the millions of tourists and local people who visit the area yearly. In the last four years, the problem has worsened, with cars backing up one to two miles on both sides of the site as people park their cars and dart across the two-lane road to see the sights.

Two years of planning and meetings have led to at least two potential solutions: moving Kamehameha Highway mauka in the vicinity of Laniakea Beach or creating a bypass road. The proposals also call for building a parking lot on the ocean side of the road so people wouldn't have to cross the highway.

An environmental study is necessary because of the close proximity of the shoreline to the project, Ishikawa said.

The question now is whether a longer, more involved environmental impact statement must be completed or if a shorter environmental assessment would be sufficient, Ishikawa said.

A project there would involve the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, which has jurisdiction over the shoreline; the city, which wants to build restrooms there; and Kamehameha Schools, which owns the property on the mauka side of the highway that would be needed to realign the highway.

"We're really in the beginning stages of this," he said. "We do appreciate the money being approved by the Legislature. It's general obligation bonds, which means we don't have to take it out of our highway budget."

Michael Lyons, chairman of the North Shore Neighborhood Board, said that not only will traffic improve but the shoreline will benefit if the hardened road is pulled away from the beach, allowing nature to ebb and flow.

Lyons added that he hopes the project doesn't take years to complete. "If they put their heads together, they could make it short," he said.

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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