Opportunities abound to support affordable housing and multimodal transportation
By Yuki Lei K. Sugimura
Maui County’s infrastructure is on the verge of some major upgrades.
As chair of the council’s Infrastructure and Transportation Committee and the Maui Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Policy Board, I’m grateful for the partnerships making these improvements possible.
The council has a chance to approve Mayor Michael P. Victorino’s innovative proposal to work with housing developer Mike Atherton in a partnership for a wastewater-treatment plant and roadway improvements in support of the Waikapu Country Town project.
With the council’s support, 213 workforce housing units would be added to the project. The council’s approval of the Waikapu Country Town zoning three years ago supported 287 workforce housing units in the 500-acre project around Maui Tropical Plantation.
So the new total would be 500 workforce housing units, along with just over 1,000 market units in a walkable, mixed-used community. In recommending approval of the project’s zoning, Planning and Sustainable Land Use Committee Report 19-93 said Waikapu Country Town will be a “complete community,” providing “a mix of housing, retail and civic uses,” with the project’s objectives as “reducing work commutes for residents and encouraging active lifestyles through diverse transportation opportunities and park spaces.”
But implementing this vision requires adoption of Resolution 22-51 to authorize the mayor’s execution of an agreement with the developer. The county would assist in providing infrastructure improvements in exchange for the additional workforce housing units.
The resolution will be heard by the Planning and Sustainable Land Use Committee on Thursday at 9 a.m. Testimony instructions and other information are on the meeting agenda at mauicounty.us/agendas.
Another initiative that mixes residential development and infrastructure improvements is the Ka‘ahumanu Avenue Corridor, a project designed to make it easier to walk, bike, roll, play, shop—and live—on the thoroughfare connecting Kahului and Wailuku. As described by the Maui Bicycling League, this project is “an exciting initiative to develop affordable housing and new transportation options on Maui’s busiest corridor.”
There are two upcoming opportunities to learn about the Ka‘ahumanu Avenue Corridor. A virtual town hall at noon on Tuesday will highlight the draft Ka’ahumanu Community Corridor Action Plan. Register at kaahumanucommunitycorridor.org.
On Wednesday at noon, the Hawai‘i chapter of the American Planning Association hosts a virtual discussion on the project with Maui County long-range planner Pamela Eaton and Lauren Armstrong, executive director of the Maui Metropolitan Planning Organization. Register for this discussion at tinyurl.com/KaahumanuCorridor.
Infrastructure projects like these require partnerships with federal and state government. So I was glad to get updates from U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz and Ed Sniffen, deputy director of the state Department of Transportation, at my Infrastructure and Transportation Committee meeting on Jan. 27.
Schatz, who chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, provided an overview on the Maui County benefits from the Infrastructure and Jobs Act—also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law—signed by President Biden on Nov 15. Schatz told the committee that the law “will send at least $2.8 billion to the State of Hawaii to fix roads and bridges and, importantly, to make it more resilient to climate change.”
The law supports “all modes of transportation,” Schatz said, “which is an important policy shift from being totally cars focused to all modes of transportation: bus, bike, people on foot.” He added, “It’s got be the Department of Transportation, not the Department of Cars.”
In light of the council’s support for “Vision Zero”—the policy goal to eliminate roadway fatalities—I was pleased to hear the senator say the law funds pedestrian and bicyclist safety. Schatz added that funding for clean-energy-fuel school and transit buses and for electric-vehicle charging stations are major elements in the law.
Schatz commended the state Department of Transportation’s work on climate-change adaptation, which provided a segue to Sniffen’s presentation. He highlighted the state government’s partnerships with the counties to make the most of federal transportation funds.
Highways will need be developed and, in some cases, moved out of the sea-level-rise exposure area, he noted. That effort shows the department’s emphasis on resiliency.
Sniffen said efficiency and equity in transportation decisions are equally important values. He said improving broadband connectivity through new federal funding can minimize demands on transportation systems, promoting efficiency, while increasing economic opportunity, supporting equity.
* Yuki Lei Sugimura is chair of the Infrastructure and Transportation Committee. She holds the council seat for the Upcountry residency area. “Council’s 3 Minutes” is a column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.