Maui Nei

This is fiction, something to think about while cruising along in Maui traffic populated by more than 100,000 registered vehicles. The process is fact.

The scene is a state Department of Transportation office littered with maps and blueprints. Two politically astute engineers are in the process of deciding how much of the federal funds allocated to the state will go to Maui projects, most of which have been in the “planning stage” for decades. Of course, the governor and/or legislators will have the final say based on which way political winds are blowing.

The engineers have already decided how many federal dollars will go for projects on Oahu. The remainder of the funds are to be split among Maui, Kauai and Hawaii counties. Both of the engineers are old hands and aren’t worried about personal repercussions since they are insulated by layers of bureaucratic befuddlement.

“We’ve still got that erosion problem on Honoapiilani Highway,” said the first engineer. “The question is how much money we pour into shoring it up while the county talks about getting it moved inland. I guess, shore it up. The ocean doesn’t care about politics.”

“Speaking of Honoapiilani, shouldn’t we take a look at the some of the ideas for widening the road through the pali?” asked the second engineer. “I thought the idea about cantilevering two more lanes out over the ocean was viable. It would be a real beauty.”

“Nah. The environmental impact statement would be a nightmare and the cost would be astronomical. The problem would be taken care of if the county would get off the stick and commit to building a light-rail line between Kahului and Lahaina. We’d have little problem getting federal nonhighway funds for that.”

The office fell silent while the engineers looked at a “priority list” of Maui projects. The first engineer stroked his gray beard thoughtfully.

“What about the Upcountry-to-Kihei road? Are the Department of Defense funds Inouye got for it still available?”

“I don’t know. We’ve got the route laid out. It avoids most of the bridges needed to get over the gulches. It basically follows an old county alignment. I know Kula residents don’t like having it end up at Haliimaile Road.” He paused for a moment before asking, “Did you hear the proposal to pick a gulch farther south and then run one-way lanes on each side?”

The first engineer snorted. “Well, crackpot ideas always come out of the woodwork. I think we can forget about that project. Making Mokulele a four-laner has pretty much taken off pressure for the Upcountry project and we shouldn’t have to worry about Haleakala Highway for a decade or so.”

The engineers went back to looking at the paper on their desks, their minds filled with dollar figures and political realities. Neither one had spent much time on Maui – just weekend vacation visits to Kaanapali and Wailea. The first engineer turned to gaze out the rain-washed window. The second engineer waited until his boss turned back to the work at hand.

The first engineer sighed. “I suppose we could trim Maui’s allocation down to maintenance and repair, but that sort of thing doesn’t have much political impact and this is an election year.”

The second engineer, who’d finished near the bottom of his university graduating class but had an uncle in the department, ran his finger down the priority list. “What about the Paia bypass?

“Oh, they’ve waited this long. They can wait a little longer,” said the first engineer. “I just love those lolo guys who looked at old maps and say there are public rights-of-way we could use. Don’t they realize that when roads are abandoned and the property owners pay taxes on the land, the road is gone?”

“What does the district engineer say about funds for Hana Highway? It seems that road is always disappearing under landslides.”

The first engineer picked up the phone. “Angie, can you dig out the last report made by the Maui guy? And, while you’re at it, check with the Governor’s Office. Maybe they’ve got some ideas about roadwork on Maui. Oh, yeah, see if the DOD funds are still available for that Kihei-Upcountry road.”

The engineers went back to staring at the paper on their desks. The first engineer shoved a sheaf of paper off to the side. “Let’s forget about Maui until we hear from Angie. What’s up for the Big Island?”

All of this, except the process, has been imaginary, based on decades of listening to complaints about Maui traffic and the bumbye responses from the state.

* Ron Youngblood is a retired editor and staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is