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Lihu‘e runway project gets Kaua‘i planning commission approval

LIHU‘E — The Lihu‘e Airport runway has been out of compliance with federal law since 2006.

Kaua‘i County took a step toward fixing that Tuesday when the Planning Commission unanimously approved permits for the state Department of Transportation’s Runway 3-21 Relocation Project.

“The Lihu‘e Airport (is) currently the only airport in the country that does not comply with runway safety requirements,” said county Planning Department Staff Planner Romio Idica at the Tuesday Planning Commission meeting. “The proposed development is to bring the runway into compliance with (Federal Aviation Agency) standards.”

The project will shift one of the two runways that service the airport by 855 feet to the southwest. This would allow for increased surface space surrounding the runway, which provides safety checks in the event of failed landings.

The project would also build a 920-foot retaining wall, a 200-foot blast pad (space at the end of the runway provided to reduce the erosive effects of emissions), and upgrade lighting, at an estimated cost of about $6.5 million.

The lighting will be changed from incandescent to LED to meet additional FAA requirements.

Other planned Lihu‘e Airport renovations have raised concerns about the effects of over-tourism.

After a public outcry, state transportation officials abandoned a plan to add three new gates to the airport this summer — reporting they would instead focus on modernizing existing facilities and infrastructure.

Planning Commission members made sure to clarify that the runway project is not connected with broader plans to expand Lihu‘e Airport, and would not help the airport accommodate more visitors.

“The department of transportation is looking at possible improvements besides the runway, to expand the actual facilities in the airport,” said Planning Department Director Ka‘aina Hull. “This is not that.”

Construction is set to begin in October 2023, and will take place between 10 p.m. and 9 a.m. except in seabird fledging season.

When completed, the runway will finally be in compliance with a federal law passed in 2006 requiring airports to comply with FAA design standards.

The state Department of Transportation reported earlier this year that Lihu‘e Airport had been initially granted an FAA exemption because the requirements were deemed to be infeasible.

The FAA later recommended the alternative plan to shift the runway. Earlier this year, the state allocated nearly $3.9 million in capital improvement project funds for the runway.

Planned airport improvements can be viewed online at hawaiiairportsmodernization.com.

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Guthrie Scrimgeour, reporter, can be reached at 808-647-0329 or gscrimgeour@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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