Traffic and safety at Laniakea on Oahu’s North Shore is being revisited yet again.
In August, the State Department of Transportation said there were three ways the concrete barriers could be re-installed.
One of those solutions involved the city, and now they are stepping up.
Councilmember Heidi Tsuneyoshi wrote a resolution on Friday, Aug. 13, confirming that the city has no interest in a support park being built at Laniakea. She said she wants to see the barriers put back sooner rather than later.
She said it’s a safety issue as hundreds of pedestrians cross busy Kamehameha Highway to look at turtles or to get to the beach and the area cars park is in bad condition.
Many North Shore residents are also fed up with the traffic.
“I don’t even go to Haleiwa anymore I go to Laie because I don’t want to deal with the traffic,” said North Shore resident and surfer Jason Magallanes.
He pulled out his phone to show the traffic map, which was backed up to the bypass, around 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.
“That’s every single day, every day after 11 a.m., Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday—it doesn’t matter,” he said.
Concrete barriers were put in by the state DOT in 2013 to ease the traffic issue.
The DOT was sued for lack of permits and the barriers were pushed back in 2015.
“Taking those barriers down was the worst thing that ever happened,” said Magallanes.
The DOT said the barriers were the best and safest solution after a 10-year-old boy was hit by a car while crossing the highway earlier this summer.
Last month, the DOT said there were three ways the barriers could come back— one involved getting the proper permits which could take years, or the plaintiffs could drop the lawsuit, and the third option involved the city.
At a press conference back on Aug. 19, 2019, Deputy Director of Highways Ed Sniffen said:
“The city could direct us because they’re the ones who own the park lands or the lands that were designated for a park on the mauka side,” he explained. “They could let us know there’s no park there, there isn’t going to be any park there, so if we place the barriers in that area they’re okay with it.”
Councilwoman Tsuneyoshi telling the DOT there are no plans for a support park in a city resolution written on Friday.
In the resolution, the North Shore councilwoman writes that she is urging the Governor, and the state Department of Transportation to reinstall the barriers along the mauka side of Kamehameha Highway adjacent to Laniakea Beach as an emergency interim traffic safety measure due to serious public health and safety concerns.
On Saturday, the council woman watched dozens of people and families dart across the highway, even watching a USPS mail truck slam on the brakes for a group to cross.
“I felt it was time to go back and re-visit the issue of the barriers that were installed here back in 2013 to limit the parking and the chaotic situation that’s developed here,” she said.
The resolution states the only parking that would be allowed would be where the lifeguards currently park, that would be for lifeguards and would include two ADA stalls.
“Based on the statement made by the DOT, if there was an expressed statement from the city to say that the city park land has not been developed and there are no immediate plans to develop that land, then the barriers could be re-installed so we’re looking really to move forward on that statement,” she said.
She also addressed those who might not want the barriers put back in place as it would block easy beach access.
“There are numerous places [across our island] where the beach right of ways are within community areas and there is no designated parking but there is street parking that the public can access,” she said as she points towards Chun’s and Kawailoa Ranch’s white fence where cars currently park.
“This amount of parking and the way this parking is, it is a safety concern,” she said.
“Unless there’s actually a park in place with parking stalls then we’re impeding access to the beach and that would be a different thing,” she said. “If the Laniakea Support Park was developed and there was parking there and we’re impeding access to the beach, but there is no plan for a park here.”
Council member Tsuneyoshi said the North Shore community can comment on the barrier situation at a public meeting that will be held at Waialua Elementary School on Thursday, Sept. 19 at 6:30 p.m.
“I think it’s very important for the residents of the North Shore to come out and talk about this issue,” she said.
She said the barrier resolution will most likely be heard for a first reading on Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 9 a.m. with the committee on parks.
As for the barriers blocking the ocean’s natural flow during big wave season and the DOT doing a high watermark study to provide to the DLNR Tsuneyoshi said, “the barriers are not a permanent structure so it’s not as if it’s not able to be permeated by water,” she said.
“This resolution is looking at an interim solution to address that health and safety issue that we’re facing. There are different components of this plan that have been brought forward, different long term plans, the DOT has been mentioning but without any concrete design or concrete money to do those plans we do need to recognize as government officials that it is a serious health and safety concern,” she said.