Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Maui News: Relief for Paia traffic squeeze

Permanent bypass road expected to make town trips more appealing
WAILUKU - Beginning today, the Paia bypass will be open permanently, instead of only relieving afternoon rush-hour traffic.

And, a Paia merchant said the change is expected to ease traffic congestion in busy Paia town and probably "affect business in a positive way."

"We're very excited about that. It's definitely a good thing," said Dean Wong, owner of Green Banana Cafe in Paia and president of the Paia Merchants Association.

The heavy traffic congestion in the town on Hana Highway and Baldwin Avenue can make it difficult for shoppers to get in and out of street parking, and that can hurt business at Paia shops, cafes and restaurants. The long line of cars waiting to get into town can turn off tourists and residents alike.

Mayor Alan Arakawa and Maui County Council members are expected to take part in a ceremony at 1 p.m. today with officials of property owner Alexander & Baldwin. They will open the gates to the bypass, which will be left open.

The decision to open the road permanently comes after the county entered into an agreement with A&B earlier this month to take over the road and assume responsibility. A&B opened the bypass road to motorists in 2006 when it was only available from 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Then, in 2007, it was opened from 1 to 6:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, including holidays.

The one-lane paved bypass road skirts the Kahului side of Paia town and carries traffic mauka from Hana Highway to Baldwin Avenue, just above the Patsy Takemoto Mink Post Office. The 1,800-foot road opened in July 2006 and was designed to reduce traffic tie-ups that extended from Paia to Spreckelsville on Hana Highway.

The interim detour route was a cooperative effort among the state Department of Transportation, Maui County and landowner A&B.

"The people of Paia, Haiku and other East Maui communities have suffered enough," Arakawa said in a statement. "Traffic heading into Paia town is backed up past Spreckelsville on a daily basis - sometimes as far back as the Kaunoa Senior Center. I want people to know that we have heard their cries for help, and we are confident that keeping this road open will alleviate traffic congestion."

Council Member Mike White, who holds the Paia-Makawao-Haiku residency seat, said that he appreciated that the administration, County Council and A&B all worked together to get the road open permanently.

He said that permanently opening the bypass road "is an important step in resolving the traffic congestion."

Wong said he didn't think businesses would suffer from traffic moving away from the town, noting that those who were taking the bypass were not heading into town to begin with.

He said people, including tourists, would still need to pass through Paia to get to Hana.

Wong added that many of the obstacles hindering business in Paia, including traffic and the lack of parking spaces are being alleviated.

In March, two much-needed parking areas were opened in Paia town.

Mana Foods is leasing a lot makai of the Patsy Takemoto Mink Post Office for free parking.
There is also a paid parking lot behind Charley's Restaurant. The lot had been closed for several months for renovations.

By MELISSA TANJI - Maui News Staff Writer Melissa Tanji can be reached at

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