Maui Discussion

Ask the Mayor: Will a Tunnel Resolve the Pali’s Traffic Disruptions?

July 10, 2016, 12:01 PM HST
* Updated July 10, 12:37 PM
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MFD photo of the Holoapi‘ilani Highway and Olowalu fire on July 8, 2016.

MFD photo of the Holoapi‘ilani Highway and Olowalu fire on July 8, 2016.

Mayor Alan Arakawa answers some of the questions submitted to his office staff.

Submit your own questions about County of Maui programs, services, operations or policies to Mayor Alan Arakawa via email at [email protected], call 270-7855 or send them by mail to 200 S. High St., 9th Floor, Wailuku, HI 96793. Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the “Ask the Mayor” column.

Hi Mayor Arakawa,

Q: I live out in West Maui and have been affected by fires and accidents and not being able to go back home numerous times.

The bypass will only help so much. We will still get stuck if there is a fire or accident on the Pali or like how it is in Mā‘alaea now.


The only option is a tunnel. You will probably get a chuckle out of this email, but that really is the only way to do it. O‘ahu has three tunnels already. Why can’t we have one here?


I was just wondering if a tunnel was ever considered. Thank you.

A: I don’t think you have to worry about anyone laughing, because the traffic situation we face with disruptions on the Pali is a very serious matter.

I was stuck in Lahaina like many others due to the recent Mā‘alaea brushfire, and had to take the back road back to town.


It doesn’t take much for the Pali to close down: a vehicle collision, brushfire, rockslide—you name it— and once again, West and Central Maui are cut off from each other.

This is a transportation project that myself and other elected Maui officials have urged the state to do again and again for decades now, because Honoapi‘ilani Highway gets too much traffic for a two-lane highway that is the lifeline for many residents and visitors.

Mokulele Highway, for example, gets less traffic than Honoapi‘ilani Hwy. but is still a four-lane road.

From what I understand, our state legislators are going to renew their calls for a true Lahaina bypass in light of what happened with the big Mā‘alaea brushfire, as will the County of Maui.

This may be a good time for all members of our community, and groups such as the Lahaina Bypass Now board, to exert extreme political pressure by calling the governor and the state transportation director to ask why it’s taken over 30 years to move forward on a bypass from Mā‘alaea over the Pali.

This was a state priority several decades ago, and has cost our community millions of dollars and severely inconvenienced both our tourist industry and local residents when the road has been shut down.

People needing medical assistance also have not been able to get through in a timely manner.

I hope that members of the newly formed Maui Metropolitan Planning Organization will also be able to express these sentiments to the state when it prioritizes how federal transportation funds are spent and on what projects.


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