Frustrations boil over bad roads in Kapolei

KITV - February 16, 2015
Paula Akana

The Villages of Kapolei was an ambitious affordable housing plan from the beginning, but with projects of this size, bumps in the road are inevitable.

Now more than 4,000 homes and units later, the bumps in the road still remaining, are actual bumps.

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"The road that comes out of Walmart, it has areas where there are big patches. You wish you had a pogo stick to leap over them," said Lee Conley, a 23-year-old resident.

Some of the first streets in Kapolei have not been repaved since they were built in the late 1980s.

"There are pot marks, these spider veins," said Gregory Peterson, a long-time Kapolei resident. "I'm reminded of it every time I go to work. I drive on it. It's like a rumble strip. To me, it's unacceptable."

Why hasn't the city repaved these streets? Because they're not city streets! They haven't been deeded over yet.

The Hawaii Housing Finance Development Corporation developed the villages and still maintains them.

It all goes back to 1988 with the Gov. John Waihee administration's push for affordable housing. State lawmakers approved ACT 15, which allowed the state to develop housing projects without going through county review and approval.

"It's a glaring example of how important it is for the county and the state to work closely together," said Hawaii State Sen. Mike Gabbard. "Obviously this is what's happened here, is that the state decided to basically trump the county's powers and consequently the residents of the Villages of Kapolei have had to suffer with bad streets. Streets that are not maintained."

"He wanted to be able to put an agency together that would get in, do the job, get out and move on. I think there was a little bit of shortsightedness on what was going to happen after the homes were all built and who was going to take over," said Warren Wegesend, General Manager of Villages of Kapolei.

According to its most recent annual report, the state has spent more than $117 million in developing the Villages of Kapolei and at least $13 million in maintenance. That's everything from streets to light poles and landscaping.

But, the state agency needs to follow the procurement process before anything can get fixed.

"Street lights, the state has to package them before they got these done. Signs falling off gets dangerous," Warren said. "At times our frustrations have been, 'how long is it going to take?' We've been talking about it for a long time."

Residents' frustrations boiled over to a recent city council zoning committee meeting.

"There needs to a compromise, so you can take over thos roads, ok? We pay our taxes. Get it through your heads! We pay our taxes," exclaimed one resident.

Often times you know when you have these squabbles between the city and state, as we all know when all is said and done, the taxpayers don't care who takes care of it. They pay their taxes on both sides. They just want the result and i think that's a fair expectation of them," said City Councilman Ikaika Anderson.

Gabbard says he's been pushing for the state and city to speed things up.

HHFDC has hired an engineering consultant to coordinate the dedication efforts. Their primary focus is evaluating the conditions of the sewers and drains.

The roads cannot be repaved until repairs are finished. Then it will be handed over to the city.

HHFDC has budgeted $35 million.