KAANAPALI, Hawaii -- Maui Mayor James Apana said he plans to
introduce a bill in Hawaii's upcoming legislative session which
would tax Maui rental cars and commercial buses to raise money for
the repair of the Honoapiilani Highway that leads into the Lahaina
and Kaanapali resort areas.
After praising visitor bureau members for working to overcome
visitor industry anemia after Sept. 11 and to educate visitors
following an outbreak of dengue fever, Apana said, "Now we need to
work on our infrastructure. One thing we haven't been able to
overcome is how we solve our traffic problem, which is our worst
Accidents on the two-lane highway often close the road in both
directions for hours at a time, stranding visitors on their way to
the airport or their hotels. There is no alternate route that will
get visitors where they are going in a reasonable amount of
"We're starting to see a lot of conventions not wanting to come
to west Maui because we can't guarantee the road will be open for
people to get to and from the airport," Apana said.
A section of the road where some accidents occur is "falling
into the ocean," he added.
The road is on state land, and the state is responsible for
repairs, Apana said. But if Maui waits for the state to make the
highway's repair and widening a priority, he said, the work will
never get done.
Instead, a year-old task force introduced the bill, which would
give the county the power to move the road farther inland and widen
it to cut down on the number of accidents.
Apana said private landowners in the area already have
volunteered to give some of their land for the road.
"We have two choices," he said. "We can hope the state fixes our
road and, by the time that happens, lose our standing in the
visitor industry, or we can fix it ourselves."
The problem with closures of the road is not a new one.
Even as far back as 1999, Maui police chief Tom Phillips told
Travel Weekly, "There's more traffic on the roads here than we've
ever had, and the highways haven't changed in 30 years. There's so
much traffic now [on the Honoapiilani Highway] that even minor
accidents cause an hour or an hour-and-a-half backup."
Although the distance from the airport to resorts on the west
side of the island is relatively short -- 27 miles to Lahaina, 31
miles to Kaanapali and 38 miles to Kapalua -- the trip often takes
hours when there is a traffic problem.