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Monday, September 17, 2012

HALEIWA BYPASS: RESIDENTS’ TIRELESS EFFORTS EASED TRAFFIC CONGESTION AND PRESERVED THE TOWN’S BEAUTY

By Robert M. Fox and David Cheever, Honolulu Star Advertiser   September 2, 2012

The 1970 bypass road was a successful joint effort by the community and the government to save Haleiwa and the historic North Shore setting.
 
One of the more memorable visual icons on Oahu is the historic Haleiwa Bridge. Once you've seen its graceful curves and traveled across its narrow roadway, it tends to stick in your mind forever.

Imagine, it might not be there today if it weren't for a group of area residents and the Waialua Community Association.    

The story goes like this: Even in the 1960s Haleiwa had traffic congestion through town, so the state Department of Transportation planned a bypass that could have wiped out wetlands, several historic buildings, part of Haleiwa Beach Park, parking and possibly the bridge itself. It was 1969.

That was when a group of concerned residents stepped forward with an action group, the Haleiwa Environmental Planning Committee. HEPC turned out to be one of the best examples of a community organization working with government that pushed for historic preservation and citizen participation in the land-planning process.

The DOT was adamant that its bypass alignment was the only viable option and, as usual, held public meetings to review its bypass plan  but the result was a petition signed by more than 300 area residents opposing the DOT plan. There was a standoff. HEPC, however, didn't just vigorously resist the DOT but developed its own alternative plan that pushed the bypass farther mauka, avoiding protected wetlands, Haleiwa Beach Park parking and the famed bridge.

A turning point came in 1970 when HEPC set up a booth displaying its plan and soliciting signatures at the popular Haleiwa Sea Spree, pushing against DOT and in favor of HEPC's plan.

Fortuitously, Gov. Jack Burns came by the booth and visited with the HEPC members. Known for his ability to connect with the common person, Burns listened and then agreed to set up a meeting with Lt. Gov. Tom Gill. From that meeting came an agreement from Gill that the state surveyor would meet with the group to review the DOT plan.

A local television station donated its traffic helicopter to take citizens and state officials to view the bypass alternatives from the air.

On board were Joseph Leong, president of the Waialua Community Association, the state surveyor and the architect who prepared the alternative bypass alignment to the DOT.

Over a period of an hour and a half, the copter flew from Weed Junction to Waimea Bay to view and photograph existing ground conditions, topography and the feasibility of the community-proposed bypass route.

Back on the ground, the state surveyor agreed to review the DOT plan and the HEPC plan. He later agreed that the latter appeared more realistic and possibly even less expensive to build.

There was general agreement in 1969 that a bypass of Haleiwa was sorely needed. But the North Shore community was not willing to give up preservation of the historic elements of the town which gives Haleiwa its rural character.

The 1970 bypass road was a successful joint effort by the community and the government to save Haleiwa and the historic North Shore setting.

In further recognition of the special attributes of Haleiwa Town, Mayor Eileen Anderson approved the Haleiwa Special Design District in 1984 providing additional protection of the area.

Today, the North Shore and especially historic Haleiwa Town continue to draw visitors and locals simply because of the wonderful beaches, world-class surf and the natural beauty of the area.
That means ever-increasing traffic and congestion.

Creative solutions are required today to address the North Shore traffic, in particular at Laniakea and other beach areas.

In Haleiwa, current issues include pedestrian walkways, off-street parking and legal visitor accommodations.

Innovative development proposals are needed to manage growth at a moderate pace in Haleiwa while maintaining the rural character of the North Shore in a partnership between government, big land owners and residents.

It was successful in 1969. Can it be done again?

A final note: In recognition of his tireless efforts regarding the citizen-oriented alternative, the Haleiwa Bypass is named after Joseph Leong.
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