If you've lived in Kihei for any length of time, you've probably heard the term North-South Collector Road. This proposed road is meant to run between and parallel to the Pi'ilani Highway and South Kihei Road. It is expected to be used mainly for local traffic and to relieve congestion on those two roads. It could also serve as an alternate exit route from Kihei in the event of an emergency.
The collector road has been talked about for decades; it is a high priority item in the existing Kihei-Makena Community Plan that dates from the 1990s. But it probably will never be built as one continuous roadway anytime soon.
One portion of the roadway has been completed; this is the four-tenths-of-a-mile stretch that runs on Liloa Street behind the Pi'ilani Shopping Center near the new roundabout. Though the road is short, it is already heavily used. This small section--not as yet really connected with much else-- demonstrates how attractive it can be to have a road for cars, pedestrian lanes and a bike path all in a nicely landscaped and attractively lit setting.
The public is not encouraged to use the existing roads, trails and paths that run in roughly the same place as the route of the future North-South Collector Road. This is just one of several warming signs that have been erected.
However, what is less apparent is that a very long, well-established and north-south trail already exists. This trail runs for miles; some of it is in daily use by school children, adventurous bikers and others who want a back way by foot or by bike through some of the less often seen parts of the area.
Just because the trail is there doesn't mean it's easy to find or easy to use.
The Maui Weekly got a guided tour of a portion of the route in late January and found the experience eye-opening. Our guide, an avid bicycle rider, met us at the ABC Store in North Kihei (old Suda Store) and showed us the paved bike path that began nearby.
The paved bike lane runs along Kenolio Road for a good distance--only to abruptly stop with a gate at Ho'opili Akau Street, one of many barriers encountered along the way.
But despite the stop sign, we went ahead into the wilds. Along the way, we encountered a variety of surfaces and grades. In some places, the road was wide, clear and level. In those sections, it is apparent that at one time, cars had used it as a road.
In other places, the surface was rough and gravelly and had some steep drop-offs on the makai side. Still other parts were quite narrow but paved with black top. Farther along there were wide stretches with treacherous-looking wooden planks going across gullies that were clearly in a flood plain.
This back route looks as if it goes all the way through South Maui in some form, though our excursion stopped just above Kalama Park. The part we saw also had lots of graffiti, trash, old vodka bottles, broken glass, overturned shopping carts and other debris. Just before we climbed over one of the barriers, we talked to a young lady out walking her dog, who told us, "It's scary and not kept up, so I don't go there."
To find out more about the actual status of the county's plans for the collector road, we contacted county Department of Public Works Director David Goode, whose department is responsible for planning the road.
"We have most of the right of way, but not all," Goode said. "Some portions we built (like by Safeway); other portions have been built by adjoining owners. Gaps still remain that we plan on building, having others build and not build."
"Where it stands now," he continued, "is that we have funds in this year's budget to do another study of the needed carrying capacity for the North-South Collector Road and South Kihei Road to handle the planned growth for South Maui. This study is necessary in order to get federal funds to pay for 80 percent of the construction costs.
"Based on the findings of the study, we can finish the design of the two sections of the north-south collector needing completion--from Ka'ono'ulu Road to Waipu'ilani Road, and from Haleku'ai Street to Auhana Road. This will give a continuous north-south collector from Uwapo Road in North Kihei to Auhana Road.
"Additionally, we are making sure that Towne Development finishes another section of the north-south collector from Alanui Ke Ali'i to Keonekai Road as required by their SMA [Special Management Area] permits for projects along that section of the north-south collector."
Asked about a continuous walking trail or bike path rather than an actual road for cars, Goode responded, "We plan on accommodating all users of the right of way, including bikes and pedestrians. For the sections where the north-south collector will likely never be built (from Auhana to Alanui Ke Ali'i, and from Keonekai to Kilohana), there are some opportunities for bike and walking path only trails."
"Also," he added, "we have been reluctant to spend funds to marginally improve the corridor that we do own, as such work would be taken out with the future improvements. We have a lot of other communities and neighborhoods that want their existing roads fixed, and therefore, we need to prioritize our funds to existing roads. However, one area of the north-south collector that we may get funding for next year would be from Waipu'ilani Road to Namau'u Street, as the Namau'u neighborhood is quite large with only one way in and out off of South Kihei Road."
As the county works on the north-south collector, Goode said, "We are adhering to the existing community plan, which has the following language: 'Plan, design and construct appropriate sections of a new North-South Collector Road from Uwapo Road to Keonekai Road to facilitate improved traffic movement in Kihei proper. When selecting a specific alignment, impacting existing structures should be kept to a minimum. Consideration should be given to segments between Ka'ono'ulu Street and Auhana Street as well as between Alanui Ke Ali'i and Keonekai Road. In terms of roadway improvements within the community plan region, this shall be the second priority.'"