My Turn: April Fool’s roads joke all too true

The April 1 humor article by April Fuhl was intended as farcical; unfortunately it is all too true. It wasn’t that long ago that Hawaii County had council members who did what they could to stop a very important roadway for West Hawaii called the Alii Highway (planned from Keauhou to Kailua). This highway would have alleviated the Kuakini crunch and significantly reduced traffic on Alii Drive by providing an alternative north-to-south commuting corridor.

I attended many of the County of Hawaii planning meetings in the late ’70s and early ’80s relating to the planned development of the area around Lako Street. In all of those meetings the Alii Highway was presented as an additional, thus supporting, corridor to the Kuakini Highway. The Alii Highway was in the EIS process, an improvement district had been created and rights of way were being reserved out from properties along the corridor.

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Unfortunately, there were council members who sought to limit population growth in West Hawaii and the Alii Highway was seen as something to be eliminated or changed to not support that growth.

First, it was renamed as a parkway with a slower speed limit and then pushed to the back burner. When Harry Kim ran for mayor the first time, he would stand in the traffic in West Hawaii with his sign and say that he wanted to help with the traffic in Kona. However, after the election Kim did not support the Alii Highway and at a crucial time in the permitting process for the Alii Highway did not even speak up. The fate of the federal funds that had been allocated to the Alii Highway project are unknown at this time.

As Kim started his third run at mayor several years ago I asked him, in front of a crowd, “What about the Alii Highway?” His response was, and I quote, “The people told me they did not want it.”

I found that odd and asked at least 50 people if they were opposed to the Alii Highway. None were and all were in support of it. Of course, I asked people who work and have to live in South Kona for its affordability and who all get stuck in the Kuakini crunch. Maybe Kim’s “people” are the ones who do not commute and do not live along Alii Drive or around Lako Street.

The Alii Highway needs to be built. We can’t continue to limit our commuters to the Kuakini crunch or throw more traffic on Alii Drive where the walkers, surfers, runners and cyclists are constantly dodging around the cars of commuters.

The planned development of the Lako area and the affordable housing — either rental or purchase — it offers our youth is dependent on that corridor, as presented and agreed to by the community some 40 years ago. To try and limit population growth by stopping roadways is wrong to everyone and a waste of our tax dollars.

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We need leadership to move this project forward and beg for restoration of the federal funds. The ball is in the court of the Kim administration and there are no alternatives in this tight commuting corridor.

George R. (Rick) Robinson is a resident of Kealakekua.