Mayor Alan Arakawa answers some of the most recently asked questions submitted to his office staff. Submit your own questions about County of Maui programs, services, operations or policies to Mayor Alan Arakawa via email: AskTheMayor@mauicounty.gov, phone: 270-7855 or mail: 200 S. High Street, 9th Floor, Wailuku, Hawaii 96793. Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the “Ask the Mayor” column.
Hi Mayor Arakawa,
Q: I live out in West Maui and have been affected by fires and accidents and not being able to go back home numerous times. The bypass will only help so much. We will still get stuck if there is a fire or accident on the Pali or like how it is in Maalaea now. The only option is a tunnel. You will probably get a chuckle out of this email but that really is the only way to do it. Oahu has three tunnels already. Why can’t we have one here? I was just wondering if a tunnel was ever considered. Thank you.
A: I don’t think you have to worry about anyone laughing because the traffic situation we face with disruptions on the Pali is a very serious matter. I was stuck in Lahaina like many others due to the recent Maalaea brushfire, and had to take the back road back to town. It doesn’t take much for the Pali to close down: a vehicle collision, brushfire, rockslide, you name it and once again West and Central Maui are cut off from each other. This is a transportation project that myself and other Maui elected officials have urged the State to do again and again for decades now, because Honoapiilani Highway gets too much traffic for a two-lane highway that is the lifeline for many residents and visitors. Mokulele Highway, for example, gets less traffic than Honoapiilani Hwy. but is still a four-lane road. From what I understand, our State legislators are going to renew their calls for a true Lahaina bypass in light of what happened with the big Maalaea brushfire, as will the County of Maui. This may be a good time for all members of our community, and groups such as the Lahaina Bypass Now board, to exert extreme political pressure by calling the Governor and the State Transportation Director to ask why it’s taken over 30 years to move forward on a bypass from Maalaea over the Pali. This was a State priority several decades ago, and has cost our community millions of dollars and severely inconvenienced both our tourist industry and local residents when the road has been shut down. People needing medical assistance also have not been able to get through in a timely manner. I hope that members of the newly formed Maui Metropolitan Planning Organization will also be able to express these sentiments to the State when they prioritize how federal transportation funds are spent and on what projects.
Q: Every day on my way to and from work I see numerous homeless individuals and families. With all the effort and money going toward helping these folks, why do we still have homeless living on the street and in our parks and out-of-the-way places?
A: Our existing homeless facilities are over-capacity, which is why many families without affordable housing often have to resort to living out of their car or at the beach. In order for us to properly help these people, one of the most pressing things we need to do is to expand the capacity of these existing providers while the Governor’s emergency proclamation on homelessness is still in place. Right now we have the opportunity to proceed much more quickly and efficiently with expansion plans because certain permitting, zoning and other requirements that normally present long-term roadblocks are temporarily suspended under the proclamation. It appears the Council is ready and willing to work with my Administration on this issue, and I am hopeful that we can move forward soon on workable solutions to help the people who need our assistance the most, especially families with children and working adults who just cannot make ends meet.
Aloha Mayor Arakawa,
Q: What are the laws concerning persons riding bicycles and skateboards in crosswalks? Over the past 8-10 years, I have been involved in several near-misses when bicycles (and two incidents with skateboarders who) dart into a crosswalk and myself, being the vehicle operator has absolutely no time to react. It is as if some of the riders are challenging motorists. I thought crosswalks were for pedestrian use; that bicycles need to be walked across the street at a crosswalk and skateboards carried. It is frustrating to have a cyclist (or skateboarder) dart in front of you, then give the “stink-eye” because you cannot react/stop in time. I find it unfair, if I can be prosecuted for hitting one of these riders, when I have no time to react.
A: Under state law (HRS §291C-1), skateboarders are considered pedestrians, so they are allowed to use sidewalks (except in Waikiki) and crosswalks. Bicycle riders should stop, dismount and walk within a crosswalk as a pedestrian, according to “Sharing the Road – A Guide to Safe Bicycling in Hawaii,” published with assistance from the Honolulu Dept. of Transportation Services and the Hawaii Bicycling League. Your safest bet is to adhere to HRS §291C-75, which states that pedestrians should use the right half of crosswalks whenever practical.