Realignment of highway in Makaha not part of plan

Realignment of highway in Makaha not part of plan

By Jayna Omaye

April 17, 2016


John DeSoto inspected an eroded section of Farrington Highway on Saturday at Makaha Beach Park. A plan to potentially realign Farrington Highway farther mauka of the beach has been in the works for some time now because of beach erosion and other safety concerns. DeSoto, a former Leeward Coast city councilman who surfs at Makaha Beach, hopes to spearhead the project.

Makaha Beach erosion and safety concerns for pedestrians who have to cross Farrington Highway to get to the parking lot and bathrooms are nagging problems that residents and others have faced for years, according to longtime community leader John DeSoto.

Residents have called for the realignment of Farrington Highway farther mauka of the beach, but plans have stalled.

The Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization, the agency tasked with coordinating the island’s transportation planning, has solicited proposals for a feasibility study to look into the realignment and other alternatives for the Farrington corridor. The project and other safety improvements were included in OMPO’s Oahu Regional Transportation Plan for 2035, but the project is no longer included in its draft plan for 2040.

“That’s when the community gets frustrated,” said DeSoto, a former city councilman who represented the Leeward Coast for about 15 years. “It’s a health and safety concern.”

Brian Gibson, OMPO executive director, said the project was not included in the draft 2040 plan because “no one submitted the project.” He said the 2040 plan could be amended but “there has to be that initial impetus to make that project happen and that has to come from someone.”

“It all comes down to costs and benefits. It’s not certain that there will be a project, but if there is to be a project the study helps us to refine and define what exactly the project entails,” Gibson said. “Then when that is done, then that project would be ripe for inclusion on the ORTP.”

The state Department of Transportation did not resubmit the project for inclusion in the draft 2040 plan due to the study solicited by OMPO that would determine capacity, preservation and safety needs, DOT spokesman Tim Sakahara said in a statement. DOT is moving forward with other safety and preservation projects in the area.

OMPO coordinates islandwide transportation planning among the city, state and the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation for projects eligible for federal funding.

According to the 1997 Makaha Beach Park master plan final environmental assessment, the highway’s shoulder was destroyed and repaired in 1983 after strong waves eroded a 200-foot by 500-foot-wide area of the park. State and city officials had requested that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conduct a study, which was completed in 1985 and determined that the highway should be realigned to protect from further wave damage.

At the time the city had acquired additional property mauka of Farrington Highway and lobbied for state funding, but moved forward to develop the beach park’s master plan with the current alignment after it was determined that “it is not likely that the highway will be realigned in the near future,” according to the final assessment. Listed realignment benefits included more recreational use of the beach park, expansion of the beach, additional parking, elimination of highway repairs due to beach erosion and high surf, and safe access through Makaha.

City Councilwoman Kymberly Pine, who represents the Leeward Coast, said “if the state and city want to do a project, they can do it without OMPO.”

“I see this particular project as having a lot of partners involved,” Pine said. “I’m committing that we are going to get this done. It will get done because the road is falling to the ocean and we have no choice. It’s dangerous.”

Other Waianae Coast projects included in OMPO’s draft 2040 plan are the widening of Farrington Highway from Hakimo Road to Kalaeloa Boulevard slated for 2030 to 2040 and a secondary access road over the Waianae Mountain Range to Kunia, which is listed as “an illustrative project.”

The feasibility study would look into potential social, environmental, technical and cultural impacts, as well as costs, benefits and recommendations of realigning the four-lane highway further inland. The $385,000 study would also look into options other than realignment.

The scope of the study focuses on a stretch of Farrington Highway from Upena Street to Makau Street. The area between Kili Drive and Makau Street would be considered for realignment. But the stretch from Kili to Upena would be considered for alternative solutions other than realignment, Gibson said. Proposals are due Monday.

State Sen. Maile Shimabukuro (D, Kalaeloa-Waianae-Makaha) said many community members are “dismayed” that the project is not listed on the draft 2040 plan, especially because it has generated community support.

“I know it’s hard because transportation officials have to balance out this versus the traffic congestion issues in Nanakuli,” said Shimabukuro, who surfs at Makaha Beach. “(But) at the same time, it’s definitely been a long-standing issue.”

Cedric Gates, Waianae Coast Neighborhood Board chairman, said the realignment project and other traffic issues were the focus of a board meeting April 5 that hosted state and city transportation officials and a crowd of about 200. He said the meeting showed that “I know and the community knows that traffic is our biggest issue on the Waianae Coast.

*A NOTE from Councilwoman Pine regarding the article below:

Click here to read more information from the Councilwoman regarding this article:

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