Pukalani construction affects traffic


Photo by Quinn Williams

Town bound traffic must use Kula Highway to get to Pukalani or downtown rather than use Old Haleakala Highway.

In the last week of October, a section of Old Haleakalā Highway between Makawao Avenue and Haleakalā began undergoing sidewalk construction affecting traffic and causing KSM students and staff to be tardy to class.

The section of road begins at the Pukalani Superette intersection and eventually meets with Haleakalā/Kula Highway at the King Kekaulike intersection.

“We’re installing a 6-foot wide sidewalk to make the street safer for the kids that go to King Kekaulike,” Erik Hammer said. Hammer works for Finishing Edge Hawaiʻi, which is the construction company doing the work.

Hammer estimates that the sidewalk will be done around the middle of February; however, he also said that with Hawaiʻi construction, there are a lot of delays, and the construction usually takes longer than the scheduled date.

Since the 8:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. construction began, Pukalani has been congested with morning traffic.

Kamehameha Maui vice principal Mr. Leo Delatori said that on Monday, in the first week of construction, there were 20 student tardies, and on Tuesday there were 26.

“Usually it’s the student drivers that are tardy but a lot of them were students that were being dropped off by parents, so that’s the unique thing [about] last week,” Mr. Delatori said.

In the first week, uphill bound motorists used Old Haleakalā Highway until it met with Makawao Avenue, where drivers had to turn left onto Makawao, drive past Pukalani Superette and eventually join up with Kula Highway.

From around 7:15 a.m. until almost 8 a.m., Pukalani filled with bumper-to-bumper traffic on Makawao Avenue, Kula Highway, and also the lower Makani Road, where motorists headed to try to avoid the back-up.

Mr. Delatori said he did a test to see which way would be faster on the way to school.

“Coming up from downtown, I got to school faster [going via Makani] than coming through Pukalani,” he said.

Beginning on Tuesday, Dec. 7, the construction crew tried a different detour. They reversed the flow of Old Haleakalā Highway’s town-bound lane and designated it for mountain-bound traffic going up. With one lane still closed, town-bound traffic was forced to stay on Kula/Haleakalā Highway until it reached either Makawao Avenue or Makani Road, where drivers could turn left to get to Pukalani.

This lightened Pukalani’s traffic load and decreased the tardies from about 20 per day in the first week to less than 10 on Monday, Dec. 6.

One solution Kamehameha Maui administration has stressed is for drivers to leave home earlier in the morning.

Many have asked about a second solution, which would be to open the school’s lower road that runs past the stadium and leads up to Aina Lani Drive. Motorists could access this road through Pukalani Street and avoid the Kula Highway traffic.

However, Homeowners association board member Thomas Revelle said that per an agreement between Kamehameha Schools and the Dowling Company, who constructed the subdivision, the school is only allowed to use that road once a year–for Founder’s Day, and on that day, only buses can use the road, no private cars. This helps alleviate heavy traffic at the ʻAʻapueo Parkway exit as a result of this well-attended event each year.

“The association is against it because the homeowners don’t want people driving up and down the street to get into the school,” Revelle said.

Mr. Delatori also confirmed that opening the road is not an option. In addition to the standing agreement, the school also fears that non-KS drivers would take advantage of the road, which, he said, could pose a security issue.

Until then, students are encouraged to continue to allow enough time for changing construction delays, as traffic congestion is no longer an acceptable excuse for being tardy to school.