If you have kids that go to Pomaika‘i Elementary in Kahului, you know traffic. Or maybe you’ve made the mistake of trying to pass through the relatively new scenic drive around 4pm; or perhaps it’s your easiest way into Kahului in the morning. Either way, there are hundreds of Maui residents who use the road and constantly bottleneck the four-way stop at the intersection of South Kamehameha Avenue and Maui Lani Parkway. The other day, I counted over 30 cars waiting behind just one of the four stop signs.
This hasn’t gone unnoticed by the County Council, which, in its proposed budget for 2019, has allocated $2,865,000 for traffic signals at the congested intersection. But this solution (and the speed at which it’s being implemented) hasn’t pleased everyone. Testifiers at the May 18 County Council hearing voiced support for a roundabout instead.
“I have two small children — one attends Pomaikai elementary — so I go through that intersection many, many times a day,” Marceline Ching, a longtime resident at Maui Lani said. “I can’t think of another intersection on this island that has as much traffic backup, other than Paia Town.” She added, “I’m very disappointed and disheartened that this has taken so long,” explaining that with children crossing the street and dealing with traffic from four directions, this is a safety issue.
Michael Brown, a father of Pomaika‘i students and a Maui Lani resident, testified for the same reason and cited studies that show the safety and benefits of a roundabout. He had a personal stake in the issue, saying “[my children] go to that school, they walk to that school, they ride their bikes to that school… and doing so is dangerous.”
But why a roundabout instead of lights, aside from aesthetics? “It all comes down to speed,” said Laks Abraham, Community Program Manager for the Blue Zones Project Central Maui, which is advocating for the roundabout. “Roundabouts are designed to slow speed, and speed is a critical component of pedestrian safety.” She added, “For example a pedestrian hit at 20 miles per hour has a 90 percent of surviving, in comparison to when you go up to 40 miles per hour it drops to 10 percent.” Citing the National Cooperative Highway Research Program she noted other benefits of roundabouts, such as splitter islands that shelter pedestrians, shorter one directional crossing and higher visibility. Moreover, it could reduce the queue of cars from 25-30 down to three or four. “It’s just a matter of time before someone gets hurt. Please don’t give up on this project,” she concluded.
Photo: Facebook/Maui Lani Roundabout Facebook Page