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Hawai‘i DOT to use federal fuunds for 30,000 foot dust fence that will encircle Lahaina

LAHAINA, Hawai‘i — The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Monday its Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) would immediately make available $3 million for the recovery of West Maui infrastructure and traffic management, as state and federal officials begin the slow process of assessing and rebuilding the flame-swept region.

Sent as “quick release” Emergency Relief funds, the $3 million has been made available for the Hawai‘i Department of Transportation (HDOT) to restore critical transportation functions and minimize the potential for further damages. Particularly, the state department announced the funds would be put toward maintaining safe access to West Maui via Honoapi‘ilani Highway and the Lahaina Bypass.

“The Federal Highway Administration has been in close contact with HDOT and will remain so in order to bring the support needed in West Maui,” said Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt.

“The quick release funding we are providing today will help emergency service personnel, police and other first responders obtain the equipment needed for traffic management in Lahaina and the surrounding area, as well as resources for repairs to infrastructure in the future.”

The Hawai‘i Department of Transportation said Monday a portion of the federal funds would be invested in installation of a 30,000-foot dust screen surrounding Lahaina, which the department said would minimize contaminants and other material from blowing onto highway users.

“We’re grateful for the continued support from our partners at FHWA and the speedy response to our request for emergency funding,” said HDOT director Ed Sniffen. “The funding will ensure that we can minimize risks from dust, erosion and other factors to our emergency responders, residents and others that need to go to West Maui.”

Additionally, traffic signals, signs and guardrails purchased with Emergency Relief funds would return needed functions to West Maui roads, FHWA said, while Jersey barriers would be used to reroute traffic and protect pedestrians and workers. Erosion control measures are also set to protect damaged infrastructure during recovery efforts, and remaining funds will be put toward personnel costs for traffic control by law enforcement.

An FHWA official stressed to The Garden Island that the $3 million allocated toward HDOT will not be the last of federal funds put toward recovering transportation infrastructure. Quick release Emergency Relief funds allow state departments to rapidly receive a portion of necessary funding — often around 10 percent of the anticipated total — in order to immediately initiate an emergency response, the official said.

Both state and federal transportation departments added that additional funding will be requested and allocated as needed.

“The nation watched with broken hearts as wildfires took lives and livelihoods in Maui — and the nation will stand with Maui as it rebuilds,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in a written statement. “This emergency funding will help get transportation networks back up and running with traffic signal replacements, erosion control guardrails and more — and we will continue to work to protect communities against these increasingly frequent climate disasters.”

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Jackson Healy, reporter, can be reached at 808-647-4966 or jhealy@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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