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Council members urge state to help with traffic and road issues

Council members urge state to help with traffic and road issues
Council members urge state to help with traffic and road issues

Hawaii County Council is urging the Legislature to take action to improve the ailing road infrastructure on the Big Island.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Government Operations, Relations and Economic Development Committee, council members discussed a pair of nonbinding resolutions encouraging action by state lawmakers.

The first resolution asks the Legislative Assembly to allocate resources for road improvements in Puna, while the second asks the state to authorize a county to use a percentage of the general excise and taxes on the fuels it generated to maintain the private roads used by the public.

The first resolution was presented by Puna Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz who said that infrastructure in Puna was insufficient to meet the needs of the community. The resolution said more than 40,000 vehicles per day cross Highway 130, which is mostly only two lanes wide, and drivers often have to exit their driveways directly onto the congested freeway.

“There have been a number of accidents that have left people stuck in traffic for hours,” Kierkiewicz said, adding that Highways 11 and 130 are the only thoroughfares for residents to get in and out of. from Puna. “And it’s to the detriment of our community. … We have seen a population explosion in the region over the past few decades, but certainly and especially during the pandemic. Getting to town for essential services like health care, getting to work, getting to recreational facilities, getting to school — it takes a lot longer and it impacts quality of life.

Kierkiewicz also said that despite multiple previous resolutions urging the state to improve traffic by widening Route 130, or extending Railroad Avenue or Government Beach Road, nothing has been done.

For this reason, the resolution urges the state legislature and department of transportation to “prioritize, significantly invest in, and expand” nonspecific road improvements in and around Puna. Kierkiewicz said the resolution will be delivered to lawmakers at the start of the 2023 legislative session.

Council members unanimously supported the resolution, with Hamakua Councilwoman Heather Kimball applauding the fact that the resolution does not specifically advocate more lanes of traffic as a solution to the problem.

“He’s not offering the only solution to make the road bigger,” Kimball said. “We know the solution isn’t always ‘just make it bigger’ because then you just get more traffic, so I like that it stays open enough for alternative solutions that might actually be better for community, better for the environment, are options available.

Puna Councilman Matt Kaneali’i-Kleinfelder noted that the resolution shouldn’t be necessary at all, given that Puna is home to a third of the island’s voting population, but expressed his support anyway. .

The second resolution was introduced by Hilo Councilman Aaron Chung and pursued an issue that Chung has been pursuing for years.

In 2017, Chung backed a similar resolution — introduced by Puna councilwoman Eileen O’Hara — to use fuel tax revenue to pay for the maintenance of private roads.

Chung said the Big Island has many nominally “private” roads that are still heavily traveled by the general public, but are not eligible for tax-generated maintenance funds that support government-owned roads.

“It’s not about looking at a total road reconstruction or anything like that,” Chung said. “Based on my conversations with people living on roads like this, all they want is some sort of periodic maintenance.”

Other board members agreed. North Kona Councilman Holeka Inaba said a private road in his district became unsafe after the developer who was supposed to maintain it went out of business.

Kaneali’i-Kleinfelder said many of the island’s largest subdivisions were formed before the county developed an actual subdivision code, leaving communities responsible for maintaining vast networks of private roads, which have become too expensive over time.

Some council members questioned whether state laws actually allowed the use of tax revenue on private roads, but county attorney Elizabeth Strance said the resolution merely served as a statement of intent asking greater authority for county governments and the actual legal mechanisms to enable that authority will be determined by other state legislation.

The committee voted unanimously in favor of both resolutions.

Email Michael Brestovansky at [email protected]

. members Council urge the state to help solve the problems traffic road

. Council members urge state traffic road issues

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