The State is considering a long-term solution for the highway | News, Sports, Jobs

The State Department of Transportation is seeking comments on its long-term plans to improve a 6-mile stretch of the Honoapiilani Highway from Ukumehame to the southern terminus of the Lahaina Bypass. – The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

State officials are in the early stages of a long-term project to address coastal erosion and sea level rise issues along approximately 6 miles of the Honoapiilani Highway.

For years, portions of the highway from Ukumehame to the southern terminus of the Lahaina Bypass have suffered from rising sea levels and storm surges, with seawater washing over the highway and causing a erosion below.

A 2019 report on the statewide Coastal Highway Program ranked the Honoapiilani Highway in Olowalu at #2 and Ukumehame at #12 in the state as the most critical sites out of 300 for vulnerability to ocean hazards.

The state Department of Transportation secured a $22 million federal grant to help cover project costs for the approximately 6-mile stretch.

This week, DOT officials held two virtual meetings to hear from the public about what they envision, as well as their concerns.

Maui District DOT Engineer Robin Shishido said the total project cost is currently estimated at $90 million. Funding will also come from state and regular federal program funds. It expects construction to begin in mid to late 2025 at the earliest.

Shishido said there are plans to move the highway further inland, although a route has yet to be determined. He said the realignment could affect both private and government land.

Ensuring the land is assessed for cultural resources, incorporating cycle paths and installing medians were some of the community’s suggestions to the department during meetings.

Saman Dias, president of the Maui Bicycling League, asked state officials to keep the West Maui Greenway lane in mind when defining a more mauka route for the Honoapiilani Freeway realignment.

The Greenway is a proposed 25-mile multi-use trail that will one day connect Ukumehame and Lipoa Point, passing several community destinations and downtown Lahaina along the way.

Dias requested that all stakeholders “Be proactive” and work together now to avoid ulterior motives at the end.

Shishido acknowledged that the DOT is already working with the Maui Metropolitan Planning Organization, which is developing the greenway.

While the long-term Honoapiilani expressway improvement project is still in its infancy, Shishido said emergency repairs have been and will continue to be carried out in the meantime.

Over the past 10 years, the problematic section of the highway has been realigned three times after storms and high waves damaged the roadway.

Another project is currently under development to combat erosion, including efforts to move the highway inland from approximately Mile Post 12.97 to Mile Post 14 near Olowalu, according to the department. .

DOT officials are still seeking input on their long-term plans for the Ukumehame to Ring Road section of the highway, such as other transportation issues the project should address, potential community partners that should be involved, land use and future plans as well as environmental and cultural resource information.

The state is working with the Federal Highway Administration on the project.

Comments can be made online at or by mail at 869 Punchbowl St., 3rd Floor, Honolulu, HI 96813.

The deadline for scoping comments is March 25.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at

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