HONOLULU (KHON2) — Roughly two dozen North Shore residents shared their thoughts about a planned highway realignment project at Laniakea on Thursday, March 30 at a city-held public hearing at Sunset Beach Recreation Center.

The hearing is for a special management area use permit and shoreline setback variance which would allow the State Department of Transportation to realign Kamehameha Highway in-land.

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“The project will include realigning a portion of the highway 90-feet mauka, adding a shoulder, or grass paver, adding a new bridge, guardrail, streetlights and a vehicle control gate at Pohakuloa Way,” explained Lena Phomsauvanh, DPP agent.

The current highway would become a bike and pedestrian path similar to the project done at Sunset Beach a few years ago.

The traffic gridlock at Laniakea has been the source of complaints, lawsuits and suggested proposals for decades.

The HDOT has been discussing a realignment project in the area for years due to erosion concerns and the high surf washing up onto the highway during the winter season.

In 2021, a temporary solution was created to address pedestrian safety and relieve traffic congestion. Two crosswalks were added along with a dedicated parking area and barriers to prevent cars from pulling in and out of the highway along the stretch of area where people park.

Some residents noted during the hearing that it hasn’t helped relieve traffic as pedestrians still jay-walk in the area. They don’t pay attention when crossing and get close to getting hit by a car.

“The real issue for a lot of us is quality of life and what diminishes that is terrifying how many hours are wasted [in traffic],” said North Shore resident Bob Leianu. “It’s absurd.”

“The congestion is intolerable for kupuna like me who have to go to doctor appointments and have to shop for necessities,” said Linda Tseu. “It’s become impossible.”

The SMA plan does not have designated parking included, which concerned those who sued DOT for putting up parking barriers years ago.

“Right now, parking is an afterthought,” said Bill Saunders, who is the attorney for the lawsuit that was filed back in 2014. “They’re basically saying we’re not going to provide parking. Just go park over there, and that’s not going to work.”

Saunders added, “In addition, they’re [DOT] suggesting parking will be accessed from the new highway with cars backing up onto the highway and that’s a nightmare and that’s going to be worse than how it currently is.”

The DOT said in an e-mail it will allow for parking on the makai side of the realigned highway but without designated stalls.

Some residents want official parking to be drafted into the plan, but others are concerned it would cause more delays.

“If we put too many bumps in the road and make it difficult for DOT, this could take another 20 years,” said North Shore resident Bill Quinlan.

He went on to say that his “hope is that we can accept this as a compromise. It’s not perfect, but it’s some action. And, if we can approve the variance and the SMA, then after that the community can work with DOT and we can discuss the parking if we think it’s needed.”

The DOT said it hopes the realignment project can begin in late 2023 and be completed by 2025.

DOT said they hope they can start advertising the project to contractors as early as May 2023 and that it would be up to the contractors to decide whether or not parking will be allowed at Laniakea during the construction timeframe.

“DOT is aware of the concern and has prioritized maintenance of a safe, clear shoulder area that could potentially accommodate parking during construction,” said DOT representative and Highways Project Manager, Henry Kennedy.

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Other residents said the project seems to be a waste of money if the project isn’t pushed back farther in-land to address the beach erosion, and others said the traffic issue would need to be addressed at Chun’s as well.

The SMA will now move to City Council for approval with another public hearing scheduled.