Blog: A taste of what you may find on Maui

A shipwreck and a traffic circle

Did that grab your attention? Kihei is full of surprises these days. Yes, there is a shipwreck at Kamaole 1 beach. And yes, we’re getting a two lane traffic circle. On the Piilani ‘Hwy’. In front of the new Kihei high school. God help us.

The shipwreck

In December 2021 (yes, four months ago) we had a Kona low here on Maui. It’s one of those times when meteorologists got it wrong and underestimated what was about to hit. Not that I blame them. Forecasting the weather is exceedingly hard, I know. The Kona low ended up being a strong storm, flooding portions of Maui, both upcountry (Kula and the Kula Botanical Garden) and especially in North Kihei. In North Kihei there is at least one condo complex which is still closed due to the flood damage. Portions of upcountry were on boil-water-advisory until just a few weeks ago.

During the storm the sail boat which is anchored off Kamaole 1 beach got loose and relocated onto the beach, just in front of the lifeguard tower. A month or two ago a volunteer brigade dug it free from the sand, but it’s still sitting there. I keep wondering why noone has salvaged the shipwreck yet. In the mean time, it makes for interesting photo ops.

The two lane roundabout

At long last Kihei is getting a high school. This has been more than a decade in the works. Politicians dedicated the property and had a ground breaking ceremony 8 years ago. But the school then languished in planning and financing hell. For decades Kihei students have bussed to one of two overcrowded Kahului high schools (Baldwin and Maui High). A few years ago Kihei Charter School opened their campus which includes a small high school, and this past year Hawaii Technical Academy relocated from Kahului to Kihei. Both schools are in the Maui Tech Park, which explains all the students crossing the highway as you make your way to the Maui Brewing Company.

There has been much debate as to how Kihei High students will cross the Piilani Hwy to get to their homes (many located ocean-side of the hwy with the school mountain-side). A regular traffic light seemed the most straightforward and cheapest choice. Pedestrian overpasses and underpasses have been hotly debated. But in the end, the Department of Education settled on a four lane roundabout, hoping for a waiver of the overpass requirement. Here is a Maui News article about the new high school. It will start with grade 9 only and then add grades yearly.

The State started road construction which is currently forecast to be completed this September. Please note the lowered highway speeds. The speed limit had been lowered to 35 mph, but the construction speed limits are now at 20 mph. The two lane highway narrows to one lane in each direction with a counterflow lane. There have been daily accidents. We’ll be getting an overpass also, no word yet as to when they start on that.

My two cents

In case you hadn’t noticed, I think this traffic circle is madness. It is the first two lane traffic circle in Hawaii State. While I know they can be effective traffic tools, placing one on a busy highway in front of a high school is crazy. Consider who will be using it

  • new drivers (who will learn to drive this thing in their 6 hours of in-car driver’s ed time),
  • locals who will eventually learn to drive it (or avoid it by driving on the even more congested South Kihei Road)
  • visitors. Pre-Covid in 2019 we had 3 million visitors on Maui, staying on average for a week at a time. Even if they wanted to learn it, this traffic pattern will cause mayhem. In case you are curious, here is a video on how to drive a two lane traffic circle.

In the mean time, please remember to zipper merge as you drive the Piilani Hwy and come upon the lane restrictions and construction zone.

And please be careful as you drive ~ both now and when this traffic circle is complete. We want to avoid more shipwreck-s, ah I mean auto accidents.